A divorce signifies the end of a legal partnership. It involves a division of matrimonial property and assets, leads to various types of support payments, equalization between spouses, and custody and access with regard to children of the marriage. A divorce can be uncomplicated and straight forward or lengthy and costly. The interests of the parties, quantum of assets, and positions on the primary terms such as child support, spousal support and child custody each drive the complexity and cost. Sometimes a well-crafted separation agreement resolves the issue and provides closure. Otherwise, litigation is required to dispute the live issues and resolve them.
Family Law permits, and the Courts encourage, separating spouses to work out their own arrangements by way of a diligently crafted Separation Agreement. Such a well-crafted agreement is preferred as they are less expensive and time consuming when compared to litigation. The parties are free to decide the matter on their own terms, meet their wants and needs, and do so on their own timing. Separation Agreements can be temporary in nature and are capable of change and adaptation as the interests of the children and spouses evolves with time. Securing focused family law lawyers to craft well prepared Separation Agreements is a key element to success. Separation Agreements deal with property, custody and access to children and support, as well as other matters generally.
Child support is designed to provide financial equality between separating parents with children. Child support is for the children. The Federal Child Support Guidelines are used to determine the amount of child support payable. Should one of the separating parents attempt to circumvent income reporting obligations to affect child support, the Court can impute income. Child support is mandatory and a relatively straight forward calculation. However, more complicated matters require the guidance of a focused family law lawyer.
Spousal support is generally sought by the spouse who makes less income or no income, in the situation of stay-at-home parents. Unlike child support, spousal support is calculated based on additional factors, not just the payor’s income. The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines provide basic entitlement figures to guide the process and calculation. The overall entitlement and calculation can be a hurdle but having an experienced and focused family law lawyer can make the process easier and less stressful.
Child Custody and Access (Decision Making and Parenting Time)
Often an entrenched and emotional subject, parenting time/access to children and ultimately decision making/custody motivate the separating parents and sometimes guardians to adjudicate parental rights. While Separation Agreements are designed to broadly address various issues for separating spouses, a Parenting Agreement is suited to common-law parental rights. Parenting Agreements focus on how the separating parents access the children and custody of the children. Well crafted Parenting Agreements and Separation Agreements are cost effective alternatives to litigation. A focused family law lawyer is best suited to prepare and negotiate the terms of such an agreement. The best interests of the children are essential and should be the first priority.
Equalization and net family property are two sides of a coin. The overall purpose of equalization is to allow the separating parties to leave the relationship as equals, financially. Property, assets, cash, investments, and the matrimonial home are all potential components of net family property and equalization. The exchange of financial statements of the separating spouses is required and mandatory in determining equalization. Exceptions as to what is included in calculating family net property exist. For example, inheritance kept separate from matrimonial funds and property sold more than two years prior to separation. However, caveats exist to these exceptions. An experienced and focused family law lawyer is best suited to navigate the complexities of equalization.