You’ve come to the right place, and the questions you’re asking are good ones. You want to know that you have as much information as possible, so that you’re prepared to make the kinds of decisions you’ll need to make to protect yourself and your financial future. There’s a lot at stake here, as you’re already aware. Everything–from your home and your retirement accounts, to the furniture and the linens, will be divided, along with your cars, boats, student loans, credit card debt, bank accounts, and investments.
In a divorce, everything that you’ve earned or accumulated during the marriage is going to be divided–either by a signed agreement negotiated between the two of you, or by the judge.
No two divorces are exactly the same, but there are definitely some common denominators. Your divorce will either be accomplished by: (1) negotiating a signed separation agreement, or (2) litigating your divorce in front of a judge. You can have a hybrid divorce, too, where you negotiate part and litigate part, but the chief components (litigation or negotiation) remain the same.
You’ve probably heard about different “kinds” of divorce, but, really, everything relates back to negotiation or litigation. If you’re negotiating your divorce, you can do it in a number of different ways: you can work with an attorney to negotiate on your behalf, meet with a mediator who will help you and your soon-to-be ex-husband reach an agreement together, hire a collaboratively trained attorney and go through the collaborative process, or even do it yourself–without hiring an attorney.
If you’re negotiating your divorce, your goal is to get a separation agreement in place. Whether you work with an attorney, hire a collaborative team, do it yourself, or work with a mediator, your goal is the same. A separation agreement is a legal contract that divides everything that you earned, purchased, or accumulated during your marriage. All your assets (and your liabilities) are handled in the separation agreement. Once your signed agreement is in place, you can move forward with an uncontested, no fault divorce.
If you and your husband can’t reach an agreement, you’ll have to go to court. You can file either on fault or no fault grounds, but your divorce will be contested–which means that you couldn’t reach an agreement, so the judge will have to decide for you.
Generally speaking, negotiating an agreement is the quickest, easiest, most cost efficient way to get a divorce. But not every divorce settles, and that’s okay. Divorce is a major financial transaction, and you shouldn’t be afraid to go to court if the situation calls for it. You have to end up with an arrangement that gives you the opportunity to get the fresh new start you deserve and, if you can’t negotiate that kind of result with your husband, it might be worth considering litigation.
Divorce should be taken very seriously. It’s a good idea to have a serious conversation with your attorney about your assets and liabilities, and how you hope to have them divided. Imagine yourself six months to a year from now, and think about where you’d like to be. What do you have to do to get to that point? You should be discussing this with your attorney, so that you can come up with a plan that takes your priorities and your financial future into account.