Divorce is the final, legal ending of a marriage, by court order, which includes the resolution of the issues of custody, placement, child support, maintenance, and the division of assets and debts.
The process was designed to give couples a chance to think about their options and do what is best for their families. In order to take advantage of this time and come up with a plan that truly fits your needs, you need an experienced lawyer on your side.
Once you file for divorce, you will have at least 120 days before you can get a settlement approved or take your case to trial in order to obtain the divorce judgment. During that period, you will have several important steps to complete, including:
• Addressing important aspects of your situation on a temporary basis during the waiting period, including financial obligations and child custody and placement.
• Gathering important information, such as the value of your property and debts. You will also have to fill out financial disclosure documents showing your income and expenses.
• Attending required classes designed to assist you in understanding how to help your kids cope with the divorce process.
• Negotiating towards a settlement and / or preparing for trial.
Sometimes issues arise after the divorce is done, leading the parties return to court to resolve them. Such post-judgment actions include proceedings to modify custody, placement, and child support, proceedings to enforce existing orders, and proceedings to punish a party for having failed to obey existing orders.
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Parties may also waive spousal maintenance for a substitute payment under Section 71 of the Internal Revenue Code which allows for set payments of a specific amount and duration. These are fixed payments agreed to by each party. However, unlike maintenance, these payments are subject to modification only in the limited ways upon to which the parties specifically have agreed.
Family support is a hybrid of maintenance and child support payments. While each party experiences some tax effect of maintenance, there are no tax consequences for child support. By combining the two elements into family support, each parent might benefit from a tax break resulting in more disposable income for both parties.
Often referred to as either alimony or spousal support, maintenance is designed to be fair to both parties coming out of a marriage. During marriage, each party enjoys certain financial benefits, and maintenance is designed to make sure that the termination of the marriage doesn't result in an unfair financial impact on either former spouse.
Maintenance - Unlike child support, there is no clear-cut formula to follow for spousal
maintenance. The court will consider a number of factors, but there is not
necessarily uniformity in the weight given to each factor.
In most cases, however, a very important factor is the length of marriage:
• Long-term marriage: Typically considered to be a marriage of twenty years or more. The
earning capacity of each party will be a major determining factor.
• Medium-term marriage: The court will generally consider awarding maintenance for a
specific period of time in a situation where there is a discrepancy in income levels.
• Short-term marriage: Maintenance may not be considered at all, unless there are
unusual circumstances, such as one party having given up a job and now needing training to
re- enter the workforce.
If one party waives maintenance at the time of the divorce, he / she cannot seek it later, so we make sure you are informed about that consequence from the start.
Divorce mediation is one way to help divorcing couples reach agreements. In a confidential process, both parties (and perhaps their attorneys) meet with a neutral mediator, who can guide you through the process and help you develop a plan that works.
As your attorney, I can help you find the right mediator, who likely will fit into one of the following categories:
• Directive mediator: Usually a former judge, a directive mediator probably will tell you what he/she
would decide if handling the case and advise you that you might want to act in
accordance with his/her opinions.
• Nondirective mediator: A nondirective mediator will listen to your concerns and work
with you to negotiate a settlement without telling you what plan to follow. This is a good
option for people facing emotional roadblocks which could impede negotiations.
If you are unable to reach a settlement with the other party, then your case is scheduled for trial.