Some Commonly Overlooked Issues in a Divorce
When going through a divorce, spouses initially tend to focus on the big picture. Priority concerns usually include who gets the family house, child custody and visitation schedules, who will pay child or spousal support, and in what amounts. Beyond those issues, there are many other matters, large and small, that also require attention. Given the emotions and anxiety that divorce generates, it can be easy to overlook the following issues.
Obtaining a post office box and a new e-mail address. If you are about to start getting mail that you do not want your spouse to see, get a post office box. Also, set up and begin using a new e-mail address. Advise your lawyer, accountant, other professionals and anyone else who may send e-mail or personal correspondence to use the new e-mail and P.O. box addresses.
Opening a separate bank account. If you have the time to plan for a divorce before actually starting the process, begin setting money aside in an account that only you can access. You'll need money for legal fees and to pay monthly bills.
When spouses maintain joint financial accounts, either spouse can withdraw the entire balance at any time. An aggrieved spouse who is served with divorce papers may drain an account out of spite or to get revenge.
Since property laws differ by state, it would be wise to consult an attorney before moving funds from a joint account to your new separate account. However, if there isn't time to consult an attorney, transfer no more than half the funds from joint accounts and keep detailed records of account balances before and after the transfer.
Changing passwords. It is very common for spouses to share a password or to know a spouse's password for a variety of accounts ranging from video streaming services and social media to bank accounts, department stores, healthcare professionals and much more. Once a divorce has begun, it is a wise move to protect your privacy by changing your passwords.
Being specific with child visitation details. This can be critical with parents who do not communicate well. Taking the time to add detail to a proposed parenting plan may help to avoid frequent arguments in the future.
Include specifics about which parent will have the children on special occasions such as Mother's Day, Father's Day and the child's birthday. State the hours for visitation. For example, the proposed order might read that the father will have the children every Father's Day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Do the same for holidays including Christmas, New Year's, Thanksgiving and even Halloween.
Cooperative parents can always mutually agree to deviate from a visitation schedule, but it never hurts to be overly specific when creating a written custody and visitation plan.
Considering college expenses. For divorcing parents with young children, considering how college expenses might eventually be covered is often overlooked. At the very least, language might be included in the divorce decree or a child support order that the issue remains open until the child reaches a specific age. Until that time, either parent may petition the court for an order regarding payment of post-secondary education expenses.
Selling or refinancing the family home. If a divorcing couple decides the best financial option for both is selling the family home, requesting that basic details be included in a divorce decree is reasonable. The spouse living in the home will likely be responsible for preparing the home for sale.
The divorce settlement agreement or decree might state that the house must be listed within 30 days of the divorce becoming final. Provisions could include a minimum length of time the property is to remain on the market and a requirement to accept offers that fall within a certain range or that meet other conditions.
Similarly, if one spouse intends to keep the home as part of the overall property settlement, a provision might be included setting a timeframe in which refinancing must occur and requiring spouses to cooperate.
Valuing and dividing personal property. Dividing valuable personal property can often be overlooked. Don't forget to consider items such as jewelry, furs, guns, and antiques. Special collections may only be of personal value to one spouse, but can easily have a significant monetary value that should be considered in property division negotiations. This can include coin, comic, and stamp collections, sports memorabilia, and trading cards.
It's also easy to overlook frequent flyer miles, credit card reward points and season tickets acquired during the marriage. These can often have substantial value.
Photos and home videos are property subject to division. Today's technology allows for creating digital files and duplicating photos and videos fairly inexpensively. Spouses should agree on how these items will be shared or duplicated and how related costs will be covered.
Changing your name. While some married couples continue to use their pre-marital surnames, often one or both spouses will adopt the last name of the other spouse as a new surname or as part of a hyphenated surname using the last names of both spouses. Most states allow a spouse who changed his or her name as a result of marriage to change it back to the pre-marital name as part of the divorce process. Don't overlook that option, as it will save the time and cost of filing a formal name change petition later.
Splitting tax refunds. Even if divorced spouses file taxes separately for the year in which the marriage ended, tax refunds may be considered marital assets since some of the income on which the refund will be based was earned during the marriage. Divorcing spouses should try to reach an agreement on how tax refunds will be treated.
Remembering the pets. It's easy to overlook the family pets in a divorce, but who gets custody of the cat, dog, ferret, or pet iguana can easily become a highly contentious issue. Some family pets may have a substantial monetary value that must be considered. Even without monetary value, pets may have a strong emotional value to both spouses and children. Who will keep and care for each pet should be discussed and provisions included in the decree.
Getting married once the decision to marry has been made can be accomplished in a matter of days, or even hours in some states. Getting divorced is usually far more time-consuming, and it is easy to overlook important issues that need to be dealt with to successfully move on as a newly single person. Obtaining the assistance of an experienced family law attorney can help ensure that all issues, large and small, are properly considered. Contact the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen at 201-845-7400 today for a initial consultation.