Divorce is a multifaceted and inherently emotional experience. Every marriage is unique, and every divorcing couple will face different challenges in the family court system, but there are a few foundational issues that virtually every divorce must address. If you are preparing to end your marriage in the near future, you should know the various elements of the divorce process and understand the different issues your case will require you to address.

Remember that reliable legal counsel is an invaluable asset no matter what your divorce entails. The right attorney can help you develop a personalized legal strategy that enables you to approach your divorce case with confidence and peace of mind, even if you face a very complex and protracted divorce case. If you are unsure how to prepare for your impending divorce, the best thing you can do is to reach out to an experienced divorce attorney as soon as possible.

What will I need to resolve in my divorce?

Child Custody

If you have children with your soon-to-be ex-spouse, you must prepare for a child custody determination that is likely to be the most complex issue you must resolve in your divorce. The family court systems of the US uphold that the courts have the legal duty to preserve the best interests of any children their rulings affect. This means that when you finalize your divorce, the judge overseeing your case has the final say regarding what type of custody arrangement is most suitable for your children.

While many divorcing couples throughout the US choose alternative dispute resolution instead of litigation for handling their divorces, no matter how you choose to resolve your divorce, your child custody order must be approved by a judge. If you want to make a compelling case for custody, you must demonstrate that you play an active role in your child’s life and have the ability to provide a safe and supportive environment for them. Most divorcing couples establish separate living arrangements soon after filing for divorce, and if this is the case for you, be prepared to show the judge that you can accommodate your child’s needs.

The court will determine both legal and physical custody. Legal custody refers to the ability to make decisions for a child, and physical custody refers to where the child lives most of the time. Most joint custody determinations involve completely even legal custody, but physical custody often skews toward one parent more than the other unless the parents remain living very close to one another.

Child Support

When parents share custody, or when one parent assumes sole custody of their children, child support is likely to come into play. Both parents have a legal obligation to contribute toward raising their children and paying for basic living expenses. When both parents have equal custody, one will still pay child support to the other. Child support is calculated by the judge overseeing the case. They will determine the total amount of support the child should receive from both parents and then divide it in half to determine each spouse’s support obligation. Which spouse pays support to the other depends on the financial situations of the spouses and their respective custody rights.

Spousal Support

If one spouse earns a substantially larger salary than the other, or if one spouse was entirely dependent on the other for financial support during their marriage, spousal support may come into play in divorce proceedings. Spousal support, also called alimony, is meant to provide the supported spouse with the financial assistance they need to manage basic expenses and maintain a standard of living similar to what they had while married.

Some states use a basic formula to determine spousal support, which is 40% of the higher-earning spouse’s monthly income reduced by half of the lower-earning spouse’s monthly income. The resulting figure can then be adjusted in numerous ways depending on the unique details of the case. Many family court judges strive to prevent long-term spousal support agreements whenever possible, and they may accomplish this through the property division process.

Property Division

Divorce is the ending of a marriage contract and the process of dividing the divorcing spouses’ shared assets. Property division can be a complex and frustrating part of a divorce, but it is essential for every couple in dissolution proceedings. You must be prepared to submit a complete and accurate record of all your assets, property, investments, and debts. Your spouse must do the same, and your property division determination will unfold according to your state’s law.

Most states uphold equitable distribution laws, aiming for the fairest possible division of marital property by accounting for various economic factors. Nine US states enforce community property law that demands a strict 50/50 division of marital assets. In either case, both spouses have the right to keep separate property, which includes anything owned before marriage, gifts, and inheritance. However, it is essential to note that some separate property could be divided under certain conditions. For example, if you owned your home before you got married but had your spouse sign on as a joint owner for refinancing, or if they contributed to significant renovations that improved the house’s value, the house would likely qualify as marital property.

Every Divorce Has Unique Variables

Your divorce is likely to involve most if not all these issues. Depending on your unique situation, some aspects of your divorce will be easier to resolve than others. It’s also vital to prepare for the possibility that the outcome of your divorce does not align with your expectations.

The best way to ensure the most favorable outcome to your divorce is to secure legal counsel from an experienced divorce lawyer you can trust. The right attorney can help you navigate the complexities of your case and assist you in making informed decisions about every stage of your proceedings. If you are unsure what to focus your efforts on addressing in the earliest stages of your divorce, consult an experienced family law attorney as soon as possible for the guidance and support you need in this challenging situation.