Creating a divorce settlement that leaves you secure is a delicate balance between the wants and needs of both parties. Compromise may be the last thing on earth you want to do, but a fair and equitable divorce settlement will save you time, energy, and frustration in the years to come.
Details are extremely important when drafting a divorce settlement. The difference between alimony in gross and periodic alimony, for example, can make a huge difference in the application of the divorce settlement. However, it all hinges on the wording of the agreement.
Your Lawyer Can Advise You Throughout Your Divorce
Ensure your assets are being protected appropriately, you could retain a divorce attorney. You could retain a lawyer that focuses on divorce, child support, child custody, and alimony, the main components of a divorce settlement.
Understanding the details and language of your divorce settlement is important. Knowing what your responsibilities are now, and in the future, as well as the expectations of your ex, will ensure that the settlement is carried out as agreed upon and no one is taken advantage of.
Since every divorce settlement is different, your attorney will be your best resource to help you negotiate the specific terms of your divorce settlement. However, most people will need to consider some basic elements to a divorce settlement.
Child Custody & Support
If you don’t have children, skip to number 2. If you do, this may well be one of the most difficult aspects of the divorce settlement to negotiate. Every state handles custody and support responsibilities differently and you may have to pay support, even with shared custody. Still, the fundamental objective is to work in favor of the child’s best interests.
View our comprehensive guide here to learn more about child support in Alabama.
In addition to the basics, there are some specific things that you will want to consider when negotiating your child custody and support agreement:
Holidays, birthdays, summer vacations, travel, visitation with extended family, etc.
Birthday parties, Christmas presents, clothes, camp, extra-curricular activities, and other non-essentials are not covered by child support. Be sure to decide now if you will split these or if the child support is enough to cover these expenses, says Wevorce.
The Future: college, car insurance, braces, health insurance, who is claiming the children on taxes, etc.
Alabama statutes provide the rules for awarding financial support to one spouse after a divorce or separation. The courts award alimony to give both spouses some fairness and an equal footing as they dissolve the marriage.
Alimony is different from property division, particularly when it comes to taxes. Alabama family courts will consider the following things when determining spousal support:
- The range of each parties’ earning ability
- The customary standard of living established during the marriage
- The earnings and money-making skills of each party
- The amount of devoted time to domestic duties and child-rearing at the expense of a party’s career pursuits
- The obligations and assets, including separate property, held by both parties
- The length of the marriage
- The ages of the parties
- The ability of the supported spouse to obtain lucrative employment
- A documented history of domestic violence in the marriage
- The need of a period required for the supported spouse to pursue further education or training to gain employment for support
- The ability of the party who has the higher earnings to pay support
Property & Debt
Alabama is an equitable distribution state, which means that all assets and liabilities are divided fairly. This doesn’t always mean a 50-50 split. Rather, the property that each spouse owned prior to the marriage is given to that person.
The remaining property from the duration of the marriage is divided as fairly as possible in the divorce settlement. Here are some Do’s and Don’ts when it comes to property division:
- DO understand all marital finances, including income, expenses, debts, insurance, retirement, investments, businesses, and the worth of valuables.
- DON’T try to hide assets.
- DO consider liquidity, tax consequences, maintenance costs, and inflation.
- DON’T make decisions based on emotions.
The Marital Home
This is among the most important items in a divorce settlement. Unless you have acquired many homes during your marriage, who will stay in the marital property matters. This detail is particularly important if a divorce settlement involves children. Ideally, children shouldn’t be ejected from a home. When pursuing custody, the marital home should also be considered.
However, if it isn’t awarded in a settlement, the equivalent equity should be part of the settlement. There should also be an option for acquiring, i.e., purchasing. Generally, it may be good/bad to stay in your marital home from a financial standpoint.
You could have a divorce attorney advise you accordingly on whether you should consider staying as part of your settlement.
Insurance Policies (Life & Health Insurance)
This is another commonly overlooked “ask” in many divorce settlements. Insurance policies are critical in a divorce settlement for continued coverage. The cost of life and health insurance outside group plans is very high. Your ex-spouse should continue paying for your insurance and that of the children.
This shouldn’t be costly in most cases since many employed individuals who have insurance covers won’t incur any additional cost from keeping you and the children in the insurance policies. Maintaining coverage will lower the overall cost of divorce.
It’s also advisable to ask for education expenses during a divorce settlement. This should apply even if your children aren’t already in school. Getting clarity on education expenses from the onset is critical to avoid future problems.
Knowing who pays what in tuition fees when your children reach school-going age avoids further disputes and related problems in the future.
If your marriage involved taking individual or joint debt of any form, such debt should be divided amicably in a divorce settlement. Dividing debt is a sensitive issue, especially during a divorce where spouses are probably on the worst terms ever. This is particularly true if the debt was taken by one person or used majorly to benefit one person.
To ensure a fair settlement, it’s important to ask for fair debt division, which involves listing all debt taken by both spouses (individually and jointly) before determining every spouse’s liability to such debt. When asking for fair debt division, you must be prepared to discuss the reasons behind certain debt division preferences.
Jewelry and other related items of significance, such as family heirlooms, should also be part of a divorce settlement. Remember to list such items and ask for them as they can be important bargaining “chips” during settlement negotiations.
Regardless of the circumstances leading to a divorce, all parents should be given time with their kids. While there are instances such as domestic abuse that may make it unsuitable for both parents to have equal parenting time, children are generally better off being raised by both parents.
What’s more, equal parenting time reduces instances of conflict. Child care expenses are also reduced significantly for both parents. It is, therefore, in everyone’s best interest to have a divorce settlement that includes parenting time.
You should also remember asking for retirement funds when divorcing. This is particularly important for long marriages with a significant amount of retirement funds.
A spouse is entitled to a certain percentage of retirement funds depending on the facts of an individual case. If you can’t depend on an ex-spouse’s pension or social security after divorce, you need to get a fair share of any retirement funds
Get the Facts of Your Case Right
Asking for things in a divorce settlement is just the beginning. You need to know how to get a fair settlement. The process begins with understanding your case in-depth. For instance, you can’t ask for Jewelry you don’t know about.
The same goes for property and debt distribution you aren’t aware of. Before a divorce settlement, you must collect all financial information possible, ranging from bank accounts to bonds, trusts, stocks, retirement accounts, and debt.
It also helps to know your spouse’s income and how it is spent, among other important information like future living expenses (child care, healthcare, education, etc.).
You should also go into divorce settlement with a spirit of compromise. Ideally, settlements are compromised. You can’t possibly get everything you want. A divorce settlement has a negotiation phase where both spouses are heard.
You should purposefully enter negotiations to avoid insignificant arguments and waste time on unrelated matters. By proposing to compromise from the onset, your emotions are kept “in check” and capable of making rational decisions.
What’s more, if you can compromise on something with an ex-spouse, they should be willing to do the same. Also, both spouses lose out when they fail to compromise during a divorce settlement process. For instance, the entire process takes more time, attracting high legal costs. Compromise also help you avoid trial, which is expensive and time-consuming.
Don’t Rush the Process
When you’re going through a divorce, emotions run high. It’s normal to feel anger, frustration, or even apathy. Whatever you are feeling, at some point, you may think that the faster the divorce process concludes, the happier you will be. However, most often, the opposite is true.
The truth is that giving in to the other party or rushing the process along will not help you deal with unresolved anger or tension. Instead, it can exacerbate issues when you realize the financial implications of a rushed divorce.
Once realized, this can lead you right back into court to resolve issues that weren’t properly addressed the first time around, costing you more money and time undoing the process.
Use Good Judgment
You may find that your post-divorce finances are shockingly different, yet you still have the same responsibilities. Think logically about what you can and can not afford to take on once your divorce is finalized.
It is not wise to forgo spousal or child support or take on debts if they will stretch out your budget. Getting the best outcome in a divorce settlement begins with clearly understanding your obligations and what makes sense financially for you.
Get a Divorce Attorney To Handle Your Entire Case
Most importantly, you shouldn’t expect to get a fair divorce settlement if you don’t hire a seasoned attorney. Experienced divorce lawyers know what you are entitled to and how to get it. They can also use their expertise to get you more when applicable.
State laws on custody, alimony, property division, child support, and other divorce-related issues are vast and complex. There may be specific divorce settlement issues in Alabama that don’t apply in other states. Since divorce settlement will dictate your future, hiring an expert to guide you through the entire process makes sense.
This applies mostly to individuals who aren’t 100% sure of their rights or what a fair settlement looks like. What’s more, you shouldn’t take any chances where children are involved. A divorce settlement will affect how your children live, get educated, receive healthcare, and more.
Your financial future, mental health, and other aspects of your overall well-being are also dependent on the outcome of a divorce settlement. Don’t take chances. To secure a fair settlement, hire the best Alabama divorce attorney.
How Can an Alabama Divorce Attorney Help Me?
Fighting for a fair divorce settlement can be easier with a divorce attorney. Because divorce attorneys understand divorce laws in-depth and can act as professional mediators, they can best protect your interests and help you get what you need. Here’s how your divorce attorney can help you.
Represent You in Hearings and Mediations
A divorce attorney can ensure that your rights and interests are sufficiently protected during divorce hearings and mediations. They will consider all factors in your case and verbalize your wishes and complaints.
Prepare You for the Process
Divorce settlements can be complex, jargon-heavy, and frustrating. Your Alabama divorce attorney can aid you by explaining the process in detail, being available for pressing questions, and preparing you for hearings and mediations.
Aggressive or relentless behavior is never the way to getting what you want in a divorce settlement. It only creates a combative environment and draws out the process even longer, putting you in a far worse position. By representing your interests in a firm but respectful way, we have a better chance of success.
Draft and Negotiate Settlement
Litigation may make sense for some couples, but in many cases negotiating a settlement can save you the time and hassle of a lengthy divorce. A divorce attorney can draft a settlement agreement on your behalf and work directly with your spouse’s attorney to conclude the case.
We Can Take Your Case to Trial If Necessary
When litigation is the last resort, a divorce attorney can represent you in court. They will prepare a winning legal argument for your case and fight for your best interests. Charlotte Christian’s team wants to protect your interests in your divorce settlement. Don’t leave your future in the hands of just anybody.
It’s not an easy process, but with the right family law attorney, you can leverage how the situation is treated and come through the experience more financially prepared. Talk to a professional in The Law Offices of Charlotte Christian and Associates by calling us or contacting us through our contact form.