Not all divorces are antagonistic. In some cases, the soon-to-be ex-spouses have a reasonably amicable relationship. This is obviously a good thing. The elimination of needless bickering is to be commended, particularly if the couple has children. If you are lucky enough to be in one of these non-combative relationships, you may think that the divorce process is simplified to the point where you and your spouse can sit down and over the course of a few hours divvy up your property and be on your way to a new life. To make matters even better, you might conclude, you’ll save the expense of a hiring a divorce attorney! Unfortunately, lack of animosity does not mean that you have a handle on all the issues that may crop up during and after your divorce.
What is “Everything” when it comes to a divorce?
While it may well be that the two of you have no known disagreements relating to your divorce – that you agree on everything – do you know what “everything” is? We’re referring to issues that you may be unaware of, likely because you have never had the experience of going through a divorce. Examples include tax issues, disposition of marital property, now or in the future, custody, and others, that most people do not fully understand, or that might be completely missed in your discussions. They may include:
- Use and Cost of Maintaining the Marital Home? While you may agree, for example, that one of you will reside with the children in the marital home, who will pay the mortgage, taxes, insurance, repair bills, etc. during that time? Will alimony and/or child support cover these items? What about times (summer vacation, for example), when the children reside with the other parent?
- Sale of the Marital Home. Will one party have exclusive use of the home after the divorce? Will the home be sold, and if so, when? Should the sale be tied to the age of the children? Can the two of you afford to run two households and still maintain the home? If the home is to be sold, what should the price be? Is there a mechanism for determining the sale price if you can’t agree? What will happen to the proceeds? Will the amount of any alimony change after the sale?
- Custody and Visitation. While you may have worked out the issues of custody and visitation in general, what happens when the two of you disagree on issues involving the children. This could involve schooling, medical issues, among others. Who is the final arbiter when disagreements can’t be resolved?
- Business Assets. If one of you owns a business, will the other spouse have an interest in that business after the divorce? If so, how do you value that interest so that the active businessperson can buy out the former spouse?
- Alimony and Child Support. Will there be alimony (spousal maintenance)? There are strict rules in Texas governing who may be eligible for alimony, the amount, and the duration of any payments. Are you paying more (or receiving less) than a judge would order if the issue were contested? Have you provided for child support? Have you considered the tax consequences of labeling a payment child support as opposed to alimony?
- Financial Disclosure. Is your spouse being open and honest about his or her financial condition? Are assets being hidden? What about joint debts? Are there financial obligations that you may have which were incurred by your spouse without your knowledge? What happens if one party agrees to pay a particular debt and fails to do so?
- Marital Property. Have you considered all community property? Are one or more of the assets not community property? How are you dealing with 401(k)’s, and similar assets? What if some of the money in the 401(k) was in the account prior to the marriage?
These are just some of the questions that need to be carefully considered in the divorce proceedings. Because there is so much to be decided, and because the answers require in most cases detailed legal and financial expertise, we recommend that your interests will best be served by hiring a divorce lawyer to guide you safely through the divorce process.
Law Office of Mary Quinn
106 Avondale St.
Houston, TX 77006