Divorce is an emotional topic, and people often do things that are not in their best interest while pursuing a settlement. It can go several different ways: A spouse might feel guilt or overwhelming sadness, leading them to agree to everything that their soon-to-be ex asks for. Or they might dig in their heels and argue about absolutely everything. Ideally, your divorce settlement will be fair to both parties as well as to the children involved in the divorce. Read on some tips for getting a fair divorce settlement as you go through this trying time.
Make Sure You Know About the Finances
In many marriages, one person handles the finances. In some other marriages, each spouse handles his or her own finances. If you are not privy to exactly what you have (both collectively and individually) when it comes to property, cash, retirement accounts, other assets, debts, and other liabilities, you are not in any position to begin to settle your divorce.
You will need to find out what is in each financial account (shared and individual), how much your property is worth, how much you owe on debts, and so on. Depending on the relationship you share with your spouse, you can sit down together to look at all of the numbers. It will be more effective and you might get a clearer picture, however, if you take a close look at the financial statements that both of you will fill out as part of the divorce process.
Understand the Laws in Your State
Each state does things a bit differently when it comes to deciding what is fair when it comes to asset allocation, debt allocation, child support, alimony (also called spousal support), and child custody and visitation. Knowing how your state handles these matters will be helpful. In general, a judge is going to want to go along with the established norms for your state unless there is a very good reason not to, so knowing that you live in a community property state or a state where alimony payments are limited to a certain period of time can help you save time and plan for your future.
Be Willing to Negotiate With Your Spouse
If the two of you are not getting along at all, it might be difficult to envision the two of you sitting down to negotiate. Unless you would like to pay an attorney to draft a letter and a judge to make decision such as who will get the dishes and towels you own, who owns the quilt your grandmother made for your wedding gift, and who will drive your child to their orthodontic appointment on which months, you are simply going to have to negotiate some things on your own.
Try starting with the small things that neither of you is particularly emotionally invested in, then gradually move onto the things that you are having a harder time agreeing on. At some point, you might need legal advocacy, but it makes sense to decide together on the items that you already agree on or that you are both willing to compromise on.
Know What Your Spouse Wants
Part of getting a fair divorce settlement is knowing not only what you want but also what your spouse wants. If you know that your spouse will do anything to keep the house, then you have a lot of wiggle room in asking for major items and assets that you want. If they want your dining room table, then you have more leverage to ask for the bedroom set or the new sofa.
Your spouse might not be forthcoming about what he or she desires most, so you may need to rely on your knowledge of your spouse as well as look at his or her facial expressions and body language when discussing certain items.
Develop a Parenting Plan
One of the most contentious parts of your divorce might be developing a parenting plan. Parenting is difficult on your own and it’s difficult when you are a couple, and it will be even more difficult when you are co-parenting while divorced. Having a good plan in place will minimize some of the difficulties because you can always refer back to the plan and tweak it if necessary.
Some of the items that should be on a parenting plan might include who will be the child’s primary caretaker, who will have the child on which days or at which times, where the child will go to school, which religion (if any) the child will be raised with, and where the child will spend holidays and school vacations. Again, when developing a parenting plan, start with the smaller items. If you can decide that the child will spend Mother’s Day with his or her mom and Father’s Day with his or her dad, you can then move on to dividing up the other holidays.
Know When to Say No
While you might put forth a good faith effort to settle your divorce as fairly as you can, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your spouse will be as equitable. If you feel that you are being taken advantage of or if your spouse is refusing to compromise on anything, then you need to know where to draw the line. Agreeing to accept a settlement that is against your best interest and unfair is something that could negatively affect you for many years to come. Understand that no matter what has brought you to this point, it is time to set boundaries and decide what your bottom line is, then stick to it.
National Family Solutions can help you and serve as your advocate as you navigate the divorce settlement process. We have assisted mothers and fathers in all different types of situations, and we can help you, too. Contact us to find out how we can help you achieve a fair divorce settlement no matter what your current situation.