Can I afford divorce?
Of course, you’re asking yourself this question. Between the attorney’s fees and the actual cost of dividing up your life, divorce can be expensive. But that doesn’t mean it has to be! Careful planning and strategizing can help you minimize your costs and maximize your results.
You’re smart to be asking questions, to be weighing advantages and disadvantages, and to be considering the impact of divorce on your life before taking any big steps.
There are a number of pieces of the puzzle, and the more you know the better you can begin to plan how to move forward.
In Virginia, spousal support is one of the more nuanced areas of law, and it’s based on an analysis of three main factors: (1) need versus ability to pay, (2) the statutory factors, and (3) the length of marriage. Each of these factors is important and affects three things (1) whether you will receive support at all, (2) if so, how much, and (3) if so, for how long.
It’s also one that is constantly changing, and it’s smart to make sure you’re up to date on the changes to the law, including taxability/deductibility of spousal support, and the applicability of Fairfax guidelines to your case.
Child support is established by formula in Virginia, which makes it an area where there isn’t often that much litigation (especially as compared to spousal support). A number of factors go into a child support order, including the incomes of both parties, the amount paid for work related child care, the cost of health insurance for the children only, support paid to other children, the amount of spousal support received, and the amount of time each parent spends with the child.
Child support is different depending on whether primary physical or shared physical custody is ordered. It’s smart to understand this, and how your custodial arrangement can affect the child support you receive.
Keep in mind that custody is another area of law where things have been in a state of flux, and you’ll want to be aware of the changes.
How everything is divided affects your overall finances, too. Equitable distribution divides all the assets and liabilities (!) in the marriage. So, we divide retirement accounts and real estate, but we also divide credit cards, lines of credit, and other debts.
What you have affects what you’ll receive, and you’ll want to make sure that you’re making informed decisions that help you maximize the value of your assets and minimize the cost of your debts.
It’s important to consider the costs of different types of cases – negotiation, litigation, mediation, collaboration – before you get too far ahead of yourself. Have a full and frank conversation with your attorney about your goals, and work backwards from there.
Remember, too, that, although attorney’s fees are not cheap, an attorney protects you from a number of different problems. We have seen, for example, plenty of homemade agreements that are worse for the wife than one that her husband’s attorney would have drafted for her, and have seen agreements signed in mediation that don’t stand up in court and costs tens of thousands of dollars to sort out later.
Part of your goal has to be to take care of things today, and to minimize problems later on down the line – in both cases, a qualified, experienced attorney can save you more than she will cost you.
If you haven’t already, it’s a good idea to sit down, one-on-one, with an attorney, and get an idea of what your entitlements might be. Talk about dividing the equity in the home, what your interest in the retirement accounts would look like, and run guideline child and spousal support. Take that information to a financial planner and/or tax advisor, too.
Have more questions? We’re here to help!