No one enters into a marriage expecting it to fail. Still, more than 20 percent of first marriages end in divorce within five years, and 48 percent of marriages dissolve by the 20-year mark, according to 2006-2010 data from the government’s National Survey of Family Growth. Separation and divorce are emotionally difficult events and you may be tempted to take advice from relatives and/or close friends about how best to proceed with your divorce. Opinions will abound and everyone will know what’s best for you, especially those who have already been through a divorce.
What is a contested divorce?
A contested divorce is a divorce where parties cannot agree. The disagreement may be about whether or not to move forward with a divorce, or what the terms of the divorce will be. In cases of a contested divorce, engaging a divorce lawyer is critical to help move the dialogue towards resolution.
It is in your best interest to resist the considerable temptation to listen to non-professional advice. In fact once you and your spouse have decided to divorce it’s important that you consult a divorce attorney to help you to understand your options, decide on how to proceed and get started.
Things to do include:
- Get organized. Assess costs, determine costs to live and prepare to transition from a joint to a single income.
- Separate finances. Begin closing out jointly held accounts. Work with your spouse and divorce lawyer on this so nothing questionable occurs. Notify creditors of separation and pending divorce.
- Review your will and other important documents. Understand how health coverage will work and be paid for and update life insurance. Review retirement plans, IRAs and taxes. Revise your will to reflect your new circumstances.
- Consider division of property and other assets. List all assets including house(s), cash, retirement packages, stocks and bonds, automobiles, bank accounts.
- Consider division of joint liabilities. List all liabilities including credit card debt, mortgages, auto loans, etc.
- If children are involved, make plans for them.
- Consider alimony. Is transitional alimony necessary for either party?
- Consider child support. If not a joint custody arrangement determine amounts necessary to support children involved.
Hopefully the above areas can be agreed upon by both parties and their divorce attorneys. If a contested divorce ensues, one in which the spouses cannot arrive at an agreement on one or more key issues in order to conclusively terminate their marriage, then the courts will decide how to divide up the assets and liabilities and what happens to the children.
Divorce is difficult on everyone, emotionally, mentally, physically, and financially and all parties are better served by forging an agreement through a qualified divorce attorney, before heading into court.