Monday, August 15, 2016

Getting Expert Help

Divorces can be simple, somewhat complicated or very complicated.  At a time when more and more people want to "Do it Yourself", some people seem to act as if their divorces were simpler than they are  You have a simple divorce if the marriage is very short, there are no kids and almost no property has been acquired during the marriage.

If you have a long-term marriage, kids, retirement assets, investments, a house, other significant assets or debts, you have a somewhat- to very-complicated divorce.

My suggestion is that you think long-term and get some help if you have a complicated divorce.  You don't necessarily need all of the following in every case, but you should get whatever help will benefit you.

1.  Attorney.  If you are in the complicated category, you need an attorney.  You want to get the paperwork right and you don't want to overlook or mishandle important legal issues. It's not such a great trade off to save money on the attorney fees initially, but then have to spend the money later trying to fix something.

2.  Mediator.  Mediation is a great process for resolving disputes.  It is used in almost all divorces at some point.  If you can't directly negotiate a settlement, which is normally the case, mediation gives you a safe, effective means to come to an agreement with the help of a neutral mediator.

3.  Counseling.  Sometimes, you can get back together through counseling, but more often the real value of counseling is that it can lead to peace.  You can learn to live with your situation better and maybe avoid fighting with your ex.  Counseling is a good investment for both parties, even if you're not "crazy".

4.  Financial Advisor.  We use them in almost every Collaborative Law case, but they are also very helpful in litigated/negotiated divorces where there are retirement assets or other significant assets.  Why not look for beneficial ways to divide things so you can save some money?  Just splitting everything in half is often not the best result for both parties. 

5.  CPA.  In many cases, it helps to have a CPA review a settlement proposal before it is locked down. There may be unexpected tax consequences or just a better way to do things that could save taxes.  It's not very expensive to get peace of mind or possibly save some money.

There's no "one size fits all" solution for how to do a divorce.  The amount and type of help you need depends on the circumstances of your case.  If you don't have a simple divorce, you should consider the experts above and hire the ones who can help.  It can save money and give you peace in the long run.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Why Cases Aren't as Simple as You May Think

Some people get caught up in the "Do it Yourself" movement and decide to represent themselves in a divorce.  After all, how hard can it be? They're thinking:  Texas is a 50-50 property state, so you divide everything equally.  Then you use standard visitation and child support guidelines. You just write down what you want and the Judge will straighten out any problems and then grant the divorce.

Now, back to reality. Life is complicated.  The more assets you have, the more important it is to use a lawyer for a divorce.  If there are children, there are many important issues other than child support and visitation.  Judges don't fix your mistakes.

Here are some issues you may need to consider.

1.  There are parental rights, powers and duties that have to be allocated between the parents.  Some can be shared, some might work with consultation between the parents, some might need a tie-breaker if the parties can't agree, and others are usually controlled by just one parent. These can decide the outcomes of some very important issues.  You need knowledgeable guidance on them.

2.  There are many different variations in the possession (visitation) schedules for the kids.  You have to come up with something that both parents accept and use language that is specific enough to be enforceable in case of future conflict.

3.  Child support can have some issues as well.  Is is really necessary?  Should you use the guidelines or try something else?  Will the Judge approve something else?  How to you calculate it?  You also have to use correct and specific language in creating the order.

4.  What do we need to divide?  What is separate property (which the Court can't divide) and what's community?   Are there any tax consequences? Can all assets be divided?  If not, what do you do?

5.  How do you handle health insurance?  Can one spouse provide it for an ex-spouse?  If so, how?  How do you set up the health insurance for the kids?  Who pays what?

6.  Can we divide retirement accounts?  If so, how?

7.  What do we do with the house?  One party keeps the house -- how do you get the other spouse's name off the mortgage?  Can you refinance the house?  Do you want to sell it now?  If so, you need detailed plans for that.  What do you do with the proceeds?  What if you can't sell it?  What if your ex-spouse won't sell it?  There's a lot at stake with the house.

These are only some of the issues you may face in a Do-it-Yourself Divorce.  If you have children,  more than a little property or a marriage longer than a year or two, you definitely need a lawyer to help make sure you don't make a mess of your financial and family futures.