The lawyer answer is “it depends”. Yes, you can get divorced if you can agree not to fight over everything. Your spouse must also agree not to fight over everything. You should have a good game plan of the various parts of divorce, with your spouse or without. My best recommendation is that in order to keep fighting down, try to resolve as much with your spouse as possible before you meet with a lawyer. Also, the more organized you can be for your lawyer, the less work your lawyer will have to do. The less time your lawyer needs to spend tracking you down, following up on paperwork, and getting answers to questions, the quicker the process can be.
Many people are concerned that divorce means an expensive fight. That is pretty accurate, actually. Fighting and going in front of a judge is expensive. Filing paperwork and getting the divorce finalized are not expensive. As long as you and your spouse are able to resolve situations on your own, both fighting and costs can be manageable. The more issues that have to go before a judge for a decision, the more expensive the divorce becomes. The more issues that go before a judge, the more the process and any good relationships between you and your spouse breaks down.
Before you even start the process, you should do these three things – cool off, get organized, and determine how your divorce is going to go. Then, we can dive into your case a little more in depth.
Cool off. The sting and anger of divorce can catch some people off guard. You should never head into a lawyer’s office with that anger or hurt. Take a moment to cool off – whether that is with a professional or releasing some steam with friends or family, your lawyer can help you to keep the fighting to a minimum once you are ready to treat the divorce as a transaction and not as an emotional situation. I understand that divorce can be very emotional. At the same time, if you bring that emotion into your case, it could cause more fighting and more cost to your case overall.
Get organized. In order to keep costs down and not fight, consider sitting down with your spouse and getting some information together. Collect your important paperwork and make sure each of you have a copy – this includes a copy of the deed to your home, a current mortgage statement, the registration or title for the cars, the last car loan statement, bank statements, credit card statements, and any other important document that addresses financial things (IRA statements, 529 Plans, etc).
Determine what type of case you will have. Can you and your spouse agree as to what kind of case you will have?
- Uncontested – “Uncontested” means that you agree on everything. You and your spouse can then file together and move towards the final judgment of divorce quickly.
- Collaborative divorce – Collaborative divorce is an out of court process where you and your spouse address your issues with the help of a counselor, a financial neutral, and attorneys, in order to come to a resolution on your own. Collaborative divorce allows you and your spouse to address your issues, while being guided by professionals. Collaborative divorce allows the parties to resolve all of their issues in approximately five to seven meetings.
- Contested – This means that you do not agree on the terms of your divorce and that you may need a judge to make some decisions for you. This type of divorce will take some time for you to go through the divorce process. Contested divorce cases can take anywhere from four months to years.
Once you cooled off, got organized, and decided how your case is going to move forward, we must now look forward to your case. In your divorce case, we use the acronym PEACE to address the various issues that courts address in your divorce case. PEACE stands for the concepts of Parenting Plan, Equitable Distribution, Alimony, Child Support, and Everything Else. Not all of these concepts/issues apply to every case, but to keep fighting down and costs down, we will address all of these.
Parenting Plan – Review a Parenting Plan form. The Florida Supreme Court provides a form Parenting Plan, with instructions that you can view here. While many parents think that they know how to divide time, the reality of splitting holidays and birthdays and splitting extracurricular activities are concepts not yet thought about. If you and your spouse can each review a parenting plan form and come to any agreements, you are working toward resolving your case. The more you resolve your case, the less you will fight.
Equitable Distribution – Equitable distribution is the concept of deciding how your stuff will be divided. If you and your spouse can go over your belongings and come to any agreements as to who will keep what, you are working toward resolving your case. The more you resolve your case, the less you will fight. In order to consider what stuff you have, following these steps:
- Create a list of your assets. Since you’ve collected your paperwork above, you should be able to create a list of things that you own. Anything obtained during the course of the marriage belongs to the pot of marital assets and will need to be divided. Make sure to list all of your assets, as well as the value of each item.
- Create a list of your debts. Since you’ve collected your paperwork above, you should be able to create a list of debts that you owe. Most debt incurred during the course of the marriage belongs to the pot of marital debt and will need to be divided. Make sure to list all of the people you owe money to, including family members, bank loans (mortgages, card loans), as well as the balance of each debt.
- Create a proposal as to how these items will be split. In most divorce cases, a judge will seek to divide things equally. Will the person who keeps the house also keep or take over the loan?
Alimony – Alimony is also known as spousal support. When the courts decide whether to award alimony and what kind of alimony to award, they look at two major factors. First, the person who wants to receive alimony must be able to show that they have a need for alimony. Second, the person who is going to pay alimony must have the ability to pay for alimony.
There are various types of alimony – bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, or permanent alimony or any combination of these. If you are seeking alimony or concerned about paying alimony, learn more about how alimony is calculated in our article “How is Alimony Determined”.
If you and your spouse can agree on an amount of alimony per month, or a lump sum amount, and the duration of the alimony, you will be able to keep the fighting in your case down. Also, if you can agree that neither of you will claim alimony, that will also keep the fighting down. If you haven’t noticed the pattern yet, agreeing and working through the different parts of your case will help keep the fighting down.
Child Support – When the courts award child support in Florida, it is based on a specific calculation found in Florida Statute §61.30. Child support is based on a variety of different numbers. Often times parents think that they will not have to pay child support if they are exercising 50/50 timesharing with the other parent. That is rarely the case. Child support takes into consideration the net incomes of the parties; appropriate deductions; costs of daycare, insurance, and uncovered medical expenses; and the number of overnights each parent spends with the child. If you have children, learn more about how child support is calculated in our article “How is Child Support determined?”.
Everything Else – In some divorce cases, there are some other issues that people have to address. Some of the more common things that fall into this category is a woman’s name change and re-titling property. This section is the last opportunity for you to include or address anything else that needs to be resolved between you and your spouse. Do you need to re-title the cars because they are in both of your names? Do you want to return to your maiden name? Do you need to address who and how you will get passports for your children?
What if my spouse and I cannot talk about our divorce?
If you and your spouse cannot discuss these items, there are two suggestions. First, consider Collaborative Divorce. Collaborative Divorce uses a team of professionals to help you and your spouse have these conversations. Second, you can use a mediator to help facilitate an agreement between you two.
Collaborative Law is a unique non-adversarial process in which you and your spouse, your attorneys, and a neutral third party financial person and a neutral third party facilitator work together as a team to resolve your disputes in a positive and amicable way. The purpose is to help you resolve your disputes without litigation and without using the Court system. Because divorce usually includes legal, financial, and emotional issues, all of the professionals assist in helping you and your spouse reach an agreement. These professionals are called a Collaborative “Team”. Everyone works together for the same goal – an agreement.
Mediation is a process where the parties use a neutral third party (a mediator) to come to an agreement. The mediator tries to help the two parties settle the case with terms everyone agrees with. The use of a strong mediator, familiar with family law issues, is an important piece of the puzzle. An attorney who serves as a mediator in a successful mediation can help the parties save thousands down the road.
If you are considering divorce and want to explore your options, please contact us to schedule a consultation at 727-359-0367 or Kfeher@FeherLaw.com.