“Breaking up is hard to do”. Neil Sedaka even wrote a song about it. It is emotional, never easy, can get really messy, and can also be very expensive.
It is always best to try to avoid a breakup, if possible, but there are some situations where it is unavoidable, especially when a relationship is unhealthy or abusive.
You should always try not to make a snap, emotion-based decision. It is really important to weigh all your options before proceeding towards separation or divorce.
It is difficult to take the emotion out of such a life-altering decision, but you need to make sure you understand all ramifications, especially how your finances will be affected.
Sometimes, the financial implications can be so devastating that you have to file for bankruptcy.
Laws governing separation and divorce vary by state. For example, if you live in Wisconsin, look for the laws regarding divorce and Legal Separation in WI.
Did you know that in Wisconsin, according to a 1949 law, adultery is a class-one felony, punishable by a $10,000 fine and up to three years in prison?
What is the Difference between Separation and Divorce?
While both have a significant impact on your family and life, there are some major differences between separation and divorce. Divorce literally puts a formal end to your marriage, whereas separation does not.
You are still considered legally married with a legal separation; you can’t remarry, you will continue to list yourself on your tax forms as “married”, and you still have the right to inherit from each other.
Trial separations are a good idea if you are not sure if divorce is warranted. Spending some time apart can help couples take a trial run.
In some cases, couples might decide that they are not happy apart either, and might decide to try to work out their differences.
In the case of abuse or irreconcilable differences, divorce will more than likely be the best answer to your marital problems.
Attorney and Court Fees
Whether or not you are getting legally-separated or divorced, you will want to consult an attorney. A lawyer can give you the information you need to help you make your decision and will make you aware of all the implications of your decision, including the financial impact.
Keep in mind that laws vary from state to state. It is so important for you to fully understand the laws in your state and how you will be affected.
If you decide that you want a written separation agreement that clearly details all decisions and arrangements affecting you and your family, you should have a lawyer work with you on a legal document.
In addition to paying for your attorney, you might need to pay filing and fees to the courts for relevant documents.
Divorce agreements will need to include the following important issues:
- child support
- child custody
- visitation for the non-custodial parent
- division of assets, including property
- if relevant, alimony or spousal support
- debt incurred during the marriage
Child Support and Alimony
Generally, a court will consider both parents’ incomes, the number of children involved, and the custody agreements in determining who is responsible for the payment and how much they are required to pay.
Payments to the custodial parent for child care include health, education, and other maintenance. Again, the laws will vary from state-to-state, so check with an attorney.
If there is a significant change in a parent’s financial situation like the loss of a job, a court can review and adjust the terms of the agreement.
Alimony, also called spousal support, is sometimes granted to one of the parties. Usually, the person with the lesser income may be granted some financial support. This is often just a temporary measure until they can get into a better financial situation.
Division of Property
How your property is divided in a divorce depends upon the laws of the state where you live. Some states like Arizona and Texas, are community property states.
This means that assets acquired during the marriage, including property, are referred to as “joint assets” and will be divided equally.
Consideration will need to be given to the age of the children and who has physical custody of them. If the children are school-age, it might be in their best interest to be able to stay in their current school, rather than having to move to a new residence in a different school district.
Separation and divorce are difficult under any circumstance. Make sure you know all the implications and financial ramifications of your decision to be better prepared.
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