How to have an Amicable Divorce (with child and without child)
Amicable divorce sounds like an oxymoron, but it is possible. Let's face it, no one gets married with the thought that they will eventually get divorced. When we marry, we think it is going to last forever, and there is nothing wrong with that thought process. You should want your marriage to last, but the reality is many marriages end in divorce.
According to Divorce Statistics, 41% of American marriages end in divorce. That is the rate for first-time marriages, and the numbers increase for a second (60%) and third marriages (73%). 4 out of every 10 couples will get divorced, so with these statistics in mind, it is a good idea to have an amicable divorce. Amicable means that both parties will try to foster goodwill towards each other and work out an arrangement that is peaceful and beneficial for both people. You do not want to be in a divorce where you are splitting hairs over who is going to get Aunt Tessie's antique pasta bowl, do you?
When children are involved, it is more important to have good relations with the other parent. While your marriage is splitsville, your children still have a mom and dad that they love and want to see on a regular basis. You and your partner need to be civil to one another for the sake of the children. There is no scenario where it is okay for one parent to trash the other in the presence of the children. The kids should not take sides at all and you should not try to get your child to see that the other parent is flawed or inferior to you. In the eyes of your children, you should still be equals.
So how do you have an amicable divorce? The first step is to take blame out of the mix. Blame will foster resentment. If you both agree that it is better to dissolve the relationship, then do it without pointing the finger at the other party for any perceived wrong-doing. If you both agree the marriage should end, there is probably blame on both sides, so there really is no reason to be petty. You both have to be reasonable in your requests to each other as far as allowances needed for money and child visitation. Remember, you want an amicable divorce so making outlandish requests to "make them miserable" should not be part of the equation.
The Cost of a Divorce
The financial cost of a divorce will vary by state, but an important factor in the cost depends upon whether the divorce is contested or not. A contested divorce is one where one party does not want a divorce and refuses to sign divorce papers, or wants to dispute every piece of marital property. An uncontested divorce is one where both parties agree to dissolve the relationship. A contested divorce will cost you more money in legal fees as there will be more documents that need to be filed and more court appearances, and all of this equals more money for the lawyers and less for each of the spouses.
According to USA Today, the average hourly cost of a divorce lawyer is $250 an hour, so that can really add up. There are some ways to keep costs down. The first is that you represent yourself in court, as "pro se," which is a Latin term for defending yourself. You are still required to pay all the legal costs for filing the documents with the court, but by representing yourself, you will save a bundle on lawyer's fees which can be more than $10,000, depending upon the state that you live in. To find out what documents you need to file for a divorce, check with the National Center for State Courts, NCSC, and click on the state that you live in as required documents will vary by state.
You can purchase divorce kits online. These kits contain all of the information that you need to file the divorce papers for yourself. Before you decide to purchase a divorce kit or to represent yourself pro se, make sure you and your soon to be ex-spouse are on board for the amicable divorce. Once you start arguing over who gets what, you are going to need a lawyer. You might even want to look into hiring a mediator. The mediator will hash out the terms of the divorce between the two of you and that will cost far less than if you had to pay the lawyer $250 an hour.
The checklist of an Amicable Divorce and its Settlement
Whether you use a lawyer, you are going pro se or using a mediator, there is a boatload of documents that you will need to gather to make the process go more smoothly. This checklist will be useful to make sure you cover all of the main areas of concern when splitting up a household.
- Child Support - one parent may have to pay support for the care of the child or children. How much is reasonable to ask? You will have to document the average cost of feeding, clothing, school, healthcare, entertainment for your child, and you do this by providing receipts.
- Child Custody - there is the physical custody which determines where the child will live and there is the legal custody which determines who makes medical decisions regarding the child.
- Visitation - how often and when does the non-custodial parent have with the child. Be sure to consider grandparents too who may want visitation.
- Who claims the child on the tax returns?
- How much equity is in the home?
- Are there a business or business assets?
- Is there a summer/ or vacation property?
- Household furnishings
- Motor vehicles
- Personal property
- Retirement funds such as 401(k) or IRAs etc...
- Savings & checking accounts
- Stocks and bonds
- How much do you owe on your mortgage?
- How much do you owe on car loans?
- Are there business loans?
- How much do you owe in credit card debt?
4. Spousal Support
- Who is going to get the support?
- How much will the support be?
- How long will the support be paid?
- How long will health care coverage for the spouse be provided?
- Lawyers Fees
- Mediation fees
- Filing fees
- Cost of legally changing a name
This is a list of some of the basic documents you will need in preparation for the divorce proceedings:
- 5 years of tax returns for individual and business (if applicable) for federal, state and local taxes
- Your latest pay stub as proof of income
- Your spouse's latest pay stub as proof of income
- Prenuptial agreement if there is one in place
- Bank statements
- Pension statements
- Retirement statements
- Stock portfolio
- Mortgage statement
- Property tax statement
- Credit card statements
- Utility statements
- Loan documents for car or any other purpose
- Any other bills (school tuition, Tae Kwon Do lessons for your child, unreimbursed medical bills)
- Monthly budget - this is a worksheet that you fill out so that all of the income and expenses are listed
- Health Insurance Policy
- Life insurance policy
- Homeowner insurance policy
- Car insurance policy
- Real estate appraisal
- Personal property appraisal
- List of all the personal property - this would include furnishings in the house, artwork, computers, TVs, etc.
- List of the property each person owned prior to marriage
- List of property acquired during the marriage and where it came from (gift, inheritance, marital funds).
- List of safety deposit contents
- Power of attorney, if one exists
- Advance health care directives, if one exists
If you don't have children, the divorce process can go more quickly because there are fewer things to argue over. Remember, it is in both of your best interests to have an amicable relationship. If you don't have kids, you want to part on good terms to make the process smoother. The smoother the divorce process is, the less expensive it will usually be. Why put money in some divorce lawyer's pocket when you can keep it in yours? If you have kids, then you really have to be on civil terms with each other. You will see your ex when they come to pick up the child for visitation or vacations that you have worked out in your agreement.
Despite all of the checklists and the terms, you agreed to in the divorce settlement, keep in mind that it is possible that you will need to re-visit the terms. This happens when one party's financial situation has been significantly impacted, whether positively or negatively. You may find that you really do not require the spousal support that your ex agreed to pay you because you received a promotion with a big salary. Conversely, if one of you loses your job, you may be in a position to ask for additional support. Consult an attorney to make any adjustments to the divorce agreement and remember that you may not get what you ask for. The judge will determine what is right and fair for everyone.