1 Is there anything I should immediately do if I think I may need a divorce?
Gather as much financial information about your spouse as possible (paystubs, bank statements, tax returns, mortgage info, retirement and investment account info, etc.), keep a log of significant events that you may need to accurately recount later, and consult an experienced family law attorney as soon as possible. Some preparation and putting a reliable plan in place now can save you money and aggravation later.
2What’s the divorce process?
A complaint is filed, the other party is served with a summons and a copy of the complaint, and the case begins. If an issue requires immediate attention (i.e. child custody/visitation/support or alimony), the parties may go to court for temporary orders. During the next phase, information - usually financial - is exchanged between the parties and there are negotiations. If the case is resolved, an agreement is signed and the divorce finalized. If any issues are unresolved, the case proceeds to trial.
3How should I search for an attorney?
This decision could mean the difference between walking away from a marriage with a favorable arrangement and financial stability or struggling for years to come. Use the internet to research attorneys: their reviews, qualifications, and past client experiences. Ask people you trust for recommendations. And hire an attorney that focuses on divorce practice.
4How is property divided in a divorce?
There’s an “equitable distribution” of the marital assets in divorce, which essentially means the property must be divided fairly. This includes real estate, retirement accounts and other investments, cash, businesses, and everything else the parties own. Age, income, health, assets, and contributions to the marriage are some of the factors the court considers in division. The longer the marriage, and the more equal the contributions from the parties - including non-economic contributions like home-making and child-rearing - the more likely it is that the property will be divided equally.
5How to legally change your name back to your maiden name?
You must formally request to resume your former name on a document filed with the court during your divorce case, usually the complaint for divorce or the answer/counterclaim. At the final divorce hearing, it’s advisable to politely remind the judge to allow your request. After your divorce is approved, you’ll receive a divorce nisi document indicating that the court allowed you to resume your former name. Finally, once you have that document, you must apply to Social Security for the name change.
6How do I pay bills while the divorce is pending in court?
If you and your spouse have an agreement on how to divide the financial obligations, you can proceed accordingly. However, if there’s an issue of responsibility for any of the bills, your attorney would file a motion for temporary orders, which results in a hearing at which the judge determines financial responsibility and issues an order. This temporary order remains in effect until either it’s changed by agreement of the parties or a subsequent court order or the divorce is finalized.
7How much circumstantial evidence is needed to prove adultery?
There’s no set amount of evidence that’s required. But generally, ask yourself whether a judge would believe based on the facts presented that there’s adultery. The first question, however, is how much time and resources you should spend in trying to prove it. Unlike decades ago when adultery resulted in criminal convictions and automatic loss of marital property, today, it’s viewed more as a symptom of a broken marriage. To be clear, cheating still doesn’t leave a good first impression on a judge. However, for adultery to significantly affect a divorce case, it must be proven that it either 1) affected the family finances (i.e. blowing money on vacations with the mistress or boyfriend), or 2) affected parenting (blowing off parenting time for adultery).
8At what age can a child choose which parent to live with after divorce?
Usually when a child is around 14 years of age and/or entering high school, the court will give significant weight to the child’s residential preference. The court’s position is that trying to force an older child to live with a certain parent against his/her wishes usually causes more harm than good. Nonetheless, if the parent with whom the child wants to reside has serious mental health or substance abuse issues or presents a significant risk to the child of abuse or neglect, the court may not allow the child to live with him/her.