It is very important to protect yourself legally during a divorce. Make sure you consult with legal counsel before going before a judge for a final divorce. You need to consider what to do about a matrimonial home, vehicles, assets, custody, access arrangements, alimony, and whether you need protection such as a restraining order if leaving an abusive marriage.
If you are leaving an abusive marriage partner and fear for your personal or your children's safety, you need to ask the judge for a protection order. A restraining order will stipulate how far away your ex-spouse will need to remain. An order of protection might also be necessary when an ex-spouse is harassing you with annoying phone calls or following you. Some abusive ex-spouses ignore restraining orders. If you believe you may be in danger, seek help from a shelter or law enforcement.
Alimony is money to provide for an ex-spouse's living expenses when warranted. The amount of alimony to be paid to an ex-spouse depends on the partner's income, health, age, how long the marriage lasted, and whether any property is involved. In most states, judges will award alimony when one partner has been financially dependent on the other throughout a lengthy marriage.
When you share children under the age of 18, you may ask for child support to help financially pay for your children's needs. Most states have set guidelines where they will determine the amount of child support based on the number of children and the ex-spouse's income. Child support payments may be taken from the ex-spouse's wages directly if there are concerns about payment. You can also ask that your ex-spouse pay child support up to age 25 if the child is attending college or university full-time and continues to reside with you.
Custody and Access Arrangements
Joint custody appears to be the fairest custody arrangement, however, it rarely works unless the couple have a civil relationship and are able to frequently agree on decisions that are made in the best interest of their children. When one parent has sole custody or there is a joint custody agreement, it is important to be specific about holidays and visiting access schedules to avoid conflict.
Property and Vehicle Division
If you and your spouse own a house/property together, you may be able to sell the house and split the profit. Or one of the partners may purchase the home entirely and take the other partner off the deed. Lawyers are able to write up a legal "property settlement agreement'' when you agree on an arrangement. Vehicles are considered marital property and divided equitably, however, if you owned your vehicle before you got married, it is not marital property and you can keep it. Other assets and furnishings are considered marital property to be divided.
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