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6 Tips for Getting a Divorce Without a Lawyer

Divorce. It’s the dreaded “D” word. For many, divorce is a time of pain, stress, and great contemplation. Emotions are in a heightened state and respective spouses can feel at odds. When children are at the center of the separation, divorce can become even more complicated. There are matters of children, assets, and the division of property to contend with. During this whirlwind of events, the stress can sometimes become too overwhelming.

In some situations, a vulnerable party can find him or herself in a harmful situation. While you do not necessarily need a lawyer to get you through a divorce, it is important to be prepared for your proceedings, from ensuring proper documentation is prepared to ensuring that you file your documents in the appropriate court. This article provides legal information on how to proceed with filing for divorce and how to create a divorce settlement agreement without the need for a lawyer.

Where to Find Information Pertaining to a Divorce

Finding information that pertains to your situation may take some time. While there are a variety of Internet sources that you could find useful, there are also dozens of sites which might be offering incorrect information. In order to ensure that you are making correct choices, it is important to vet any sites that you use in making decisions about your divorce. The wrong choices may impact on you for many years. It is a good idea to conduct thorough research and take notes on all of the information you discover.

Cost

When considering all aspects to a divorce, cost is a major factor. Beware of some of the self-help guides on divorce. They may be the most cost-effective solutions, but they may not necessarily serve your best interests. It is best to refer to multiple sources.

Some issues to consider when approaching divorce proceedings on your own are:

  • the division of property,
  • spousal rights and child/visitation rights,
  • pensions, and
  • marital homes.

A state-by-state approach is also needed to ensure that you are following the correct laws. The first issue to consider when approaching divorce proceedings without a lawyer is whether you and your spouse are in agreement on all of the above issues (i.e. property, children, marital homes, etc.).

If you and your spouse are not in agreement, it can lead to a sticky and complicated situation. The other issue to consider is documenting all complete information about your family's assets and debts (discussed in greater detail below). If, after discussing all of the accounting and financial issues with your spouse, and you are completely comfortable with the decisions you’ve made together, you should also discuss the custody and support arrangements for your children. The goal is to make sure these arrangements are agreeable to all parties.

What Is a “Matrimonial Home” and Does It Get Special Treatment?

A matrimonial home is all the property in which a person has an interest. In addition, the interest is determined by the home which was occupied by the person and his or her spouse and deemed as the family residence at the time of the separation. There can be multiple matrimonial homes:

  • Summer time shares
  • Cottages
  • Ski chalets
  • Condos in other areas, etc.

The matrimonial home in California qualifies for special treatment in two ways. First, regardless of whose name the matrimonial home is in, both spouses have equal rights to the possession of the home. This right continues until both parties are no longer spouses, or until there is a court order in which an agreement is made, proving otherwise. No one can “throw out” the other spouse because the “thrower” owns the house. And secondly, if a matrimonial home at the time of separation (owned by one of the parties and the other party moved in before or after the marriage, or it was purchased to be the family’s home by one of the parties) is the same home lived in at the date of the marriage, the owner cannot deduct the marriage date value when calculating his or her NFP.

The matrimonial home’s valuation date is included as a valuation date asset but without a corresponding deduction. This situation is rare, but it can have an impact on equalization payments. Sometimes, however, the facts regarding ownership may not be that simple, an agreement may have been made beforehand (between the spouses) or there was an understanding that the house belonged to both of them, even though they were not both on the title. Rebutting the presumption created by a title can be difficult, and it does require a great deal of evidence that the intent was for the house to belong to both spouses.

Other issues to consider are tax issues. For instance, there are serious and long-term tax considerations for many divorces. Before embarking on divorce proceedings without a lawyer, it is a good idea to consult with an accountant or financial advisor, or even tax preparer who can alert you to potential tax issues after a divorce. IRS is the official website where IRS officers offer free information about all tax issues pertaining to divorce.

Another issue in regards to taxes is the issue of alimony. Alimony plays a part in tax-filing. For instance, alimony is taxable to the recipient. This means that if one partner is receiving alimony, that partner must pay taxes on the alimony they are receiving. The person who pays alimony gets to deduct it.

Child support, by contrast, is not taxable to the recipient, and it is not deductible for the person paying it. The last major tax issue to consider is your filing status. When you are filing your taxes, your marital status at the end of the year determines how you file your taxes. For instance, if you are divorced on December 31st, you are considered single.

How Does Pension Come Into Play?

Pension is considered property, and must be taken into account when calculating the NFP and equalization payment. However, the value of a pension is difficult to calculate and, as such, requires the assistance of an actuary. Generally speaking, one can assume that the pension that each party has is worth more than one can accrue. A pension is worth more than the value of contributions made to it. In addition, the value of a pension changes, depending on how many more years the pension member will work. The pension also takes into consideration whether an early retirement will take place, and whether the pension member was terminated at the valuation date, or whether the member will continue to work until a normal retirement date.

Pension is governed by federal legislation. In addition, each pension plan has its own set of terms and provisions. A myriad of rights will apply if you are separated at the time the pension becomes payable (in some cases, this may not apply). For instance, the rules on pensions can differ in the following scenarios:

  • Contribution to the pension plan prior to marriage
  • Remarrying after separation but before retirement
  • Entering into a new common law relationship

There are many situations in which the calculation of pension will vary greatly. Thus, while a marital home can be lived in or can be sold to raise money, a pension cannot be. If a pension is valued and made part of the equalization payment, there may not be sufficient funds to make the payment. In determining your rights, all of the issues raised above are areas to consider.

How to Create a Divorce Settlement Agreement

Get started without a lawyer today. Create your divorce settlement agreement or marriage separation agreement in minutes with our 2 simple online forms.