“Heartbreak is a loss. Divorce is a piece of paper.”
Taylor Jenkins Reid
A good marriage is a number one dream for many women. Many of us dream about our prince charming and living in a house with the white picket fence, in no-crime neighborhoods with good schools to boot! We make plans to have the perfect family and the perfect life, unfortunately many marriages end up in divorce. I have always thought that if I knew how painful and difficult divorce could be, I would have never married in the first place! Every case is different, while some divorces are like the Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner’s movie “The War of Roses”, others go smoothly when the parties maintain a modicum of civility. There are many different circumstances that make every case unique, if you or somebody you know, is going down the unfortunate path of divorce, it is important to seek legal advice to better understand your rights, responsibilities, and the different avenues you can pursue. I am an attorney and at the time of my divorce, I made my decisions with my heart not with my head, I refused to seek help from a family law expert and ended up quitclaiming all our community property to my ex-husband and settling for pennies on the dollar in the process. Here are some of the main points you may want to think about if you are contemplating divorce.
In the state where I live, Nevada, if you are getting a divorce, you have two options. First, you can file a Joint Petition for Divorce, if both parties agree on the terms of the divorce. You can file this document together with a Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA) to divide property and debts. If the parties do not have many assets or debt, and agree on all other terms, the Joint Petition will usually suffice. One of the parties need an Affidavit of Resident Witness to prove to the Court that he/she has been a resident of the State of Nevada for at least the preceding six weeks prior to the filing of the petition. After submitting these documents to the Court, you can expect a Decree of Divorce within 2 to 4 weeks. It works the same way if you are filing for a Joint Petition for Divorce with children. Things are a bit more complicated here, however, because in the petition you need to specify everything related to custody, child support, health insurance and other important decisions that are related to the wellbeing of the children involved. As a woman, you have the option to return to your maiden-name if you changed your last name to your husbands at the time of marriage. If you do request a name change, you are going to need a certified copy of the Divorce Decree to change your driver’s license, social security, passport, credit cards, etc. Before you go to these offices make sure you check with them directly as to what other documents are required in order to make the desired change, then get ready to spend hours navigating (fun) bureaucracies.
If the parties are not in agreement, then the only option is to file a contested divorce. The party that files first will be the Plaintiff and the respondent will be the Defendant. Once the complaint is filed by the Plaintiff, a summons is issued by the court. After Defendant is served with these documents, he/she has 20 days to answer and then fasten your seatbelts, the fun is about to begin! Many states like Nevada are community property states. Make sure that you ask your attorney how this affects the division of property and debt. Depending on the type of custody granted by the court, one of the parties may be responsible for child support. The amount of child support is calculated by a formula applied to the responsible parent’s income. There is also the possibility of alimony, also commonly referred to as spousal support. This again is different in every case and awarded only in specific cases.
I have seen clients and friends spending outrageous amounts of money on legal fees in divorce proceedings. If you think you are all done with the process when the divorce is finalized, you would be sadly mistaken. If you have children and one party is not following the terms of the Decree of Divorce the battle can go on for years. It is unfortunate that many parents spend more time fighting instead of looking out for the happiness and well-being of their children. If you think there is no other option but divorce, then make sure that you reach out to a family attorney, but if you think you can work things out, put all your best efforts towards that avenue. I see my divorce as one of the most painful experiences that I had to endure. Today after 15 years, I now understood it was the best decision for me. I cried a lot, learned a lot and what I had to go through made me the person that I am today. I realized is better to forgive and forget. Today, I have a great relationship with my ex-husband and I never thought that would happen, it makes no sense to go through life with bad feelings for someone that was a major part of your life.
Are you or somebody that you know going through divorce? If so, please get legal advice from a family attorney to understand your options.