By Mike Stetzer
The law is an area that is often difficult for people to understand. It is filled with seemingly odd rules and procedures which often originate from hundreds of years ago. This may not be a problem for people who have spent years studying and exploring the complexities of the law.
The problems exist when people find new areas of a law suddenly relevant to their daily lives, like in a divorce. In a divorce, the problems are amplified because emotions are typically running high.
If you're going through a divorce and confused by the legalese, a divorce attorney may be able to help. An attorney could help you to understand your rights and plan out what the best way to proceed may be. If you'd like to get in touch with an attorney in your area, just fill out the short form below.
The majority of the time, when children aren't involved, the main area of contention is debts and assets. Without a prior agreement, called a prenuptial agreement, assets are divided according to the laws of the state in which the divorce takes place and the discretion of the divorce court.
Generally, property that is considered "marital" or "community" property is divided between the spouses, while each spouse will keep what is considered "separate" property. However, the division isn't always equal and what constitutes separate property may vary from state to state and may be different from what you expect.
Once it's determined which property is considered "marital", the process of dividing that property will depend on the state as well. Some states have a clear statutory guideline for dividing marital property, while others allow the parties to agree or the court to determine how to divide the assets based on a variety of factors such as relative income of the parties, contributions to the household, division of debts, dissipation of assets during the marriage or the pendency of the divorce and others.
Another common question people have revolves around settlement agreements. Depending on the state--and possibly even county within the state--it may be possible to enter into a written agreement to dispose of all issues in your divorce case or a court appearance may be required. In some states, basic evidence must be submitted even where the parties agree on all issues.
When negotiating the terms of your divorce, it's important to recognize that one attorney cannot represent the interests of both spouses. If your spouse has an attorney and you do not, you should seriously consider having your own divorce lawyer review the agreement and advise you on the long-term impact of its terms. Your spouse's attorney cannot give you legal advice.