A divorce action is neither emotionally nor financially pleasant; however, you can take steps to prepare for this life-changing event. The first step is to learn the language of divorce. Learning the language will assist you in communicating with your attorney and understanding the process. Following are some fundamental divorce terms:
- Legal Separation: an agreement between the parties to resolve financial claims pending the divorce. This does not dissolve the marriage.
- Dissolution/Divorce: a legal process terminating a marriage by court order. The process begins when one spouse files a complaint with the court requesting a divorce.
- No Fault Divorce: a divorce degree is granted without a party providing evidence of the other party’s marital misconduct.
- Consent/Uncontested Divorce: a divorce proceeding in which the parties agree to a divorce and have agreed upon all financial issues.
- Two (2) year period of separation: a consistent time period in which the parties have lived separate and apart (in the same house or in separate residences). To qualify for the separation, the parties have no marital or sexual relations and do not hold themselves in the public eye as husband and wife.
- Marital property: All property acquired from the date of marriage until the date of separation without regard to who holds title (subject to certain exclusions).
- Equitable Distribution of Property: the process of fairly dividing marital property in a divorce action on the basis of such factors as age, health, employment of the parties, contribution to the marriage and who has custody of children.
- Property settlement agreement: a comprehensive written document detailing the parties’ agreement of financial issues.
- Alimony: Payment of support from one spouse to the other spouse after the divorce is granted for a term to be decided by the parties or the court.
- Alimony pendente lite spousal support: A temporary order of court providing support for a spouse while a divorce action is in progress.
- Child support: Financial support for a child until emancipation (PA is 18 years of age and graduated high school at which time the duty to support is terminated). Amount of support is dependent upon which parent has custody and the income of both parents.
- Child custody: Legal custody is the legal right of the parents to make decisions concerning the education, medical treatment and religion of the children. Physical custody is the legal right of the parents for the care and physical access of the children.
- Discovery: Procedures implemented by the court to assist each party in determining the financial status of the marriage. This may include a set of interrogatories or questions asking for detailed financial information.
Step two in the proper planning for a divorce is preparing a financial picture or snap shot of your marital assets and debts. This may include obtaining copies of all current financial records: wage statements, tax returns, credit card statements, real estate appraisals, mortgage statements, bank statements, titles to vehicles, retirement account statements, stock and stock options statements, business interests or partnership interests. Your attorney will be able to provide more guidance when the financial information is well organized. The financial information may be used in a trial setting or in an alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation. Mediation is a welcome alternative to settling the financial issues of a divorce without the need of court hearings or trial.
A divorce proceeding is analogous to the dissolution of a business partnership. The dissolution is a three-part process: first, the assets are identified; second, the identified assets are valued; and third, the assets are divided between the partners. Of course much work is done to accomplish each step and make a smooth transition. Keeping this analogy in mind will assist you in working through the financial issues of a divorce. The emotional aspect of the divorce is always present. It is our goal as your attorney to guide you to a satisfactory financial plan while working through the emotions.
Proper planning for your divorce will help to minimize any apprehension, anxiety or confusion you may experience in the process. MacElree Harvey provides a handbook for divorce for clients published by the American Bar Association. If you would like additional information, please contact us and we will provide you the handbook for your reference.
The following article is informational only and not intended as legal advice. Speak with a licensed attorney about your own specific situation. © Copyright 2011 MacElree Harvey, Ltd. All rights reserved.