Here is an interesting article in the Washington Post column “Solo-ish”in which I was interviewed about housing and the impact of moving from your home during and after a separation and divorce. Here is the link to the article:
An Uncontested Divorce is one in which you and your spouse have resolved all issues in your marriage, for example, a division of your property, child support and custody or a parenting plan, division of retirement plans, etc. If you have worked out the various issues, it is important to have a written Agreement drafted that indicates how everything will be settled. All potential issues, such as property ownership, debt division, tax issues, child support, and custody, etc. are then resolved prior to filing for divorce. If you do not have a written Agreement, you may not be able to proceed with a simple uncontested divorce. In order to file for an Uncontested Divorce and attend a simple hearing, you must be able to show that all property and other rights are settled.
This will help you avoid a lengthy court process in which you will have to ask a Judge to decide your personal family issues for you.
An amicable solution is always best if at all possible. This way you maintain control over how you will live your life moving forward separately from your spouse.
It is important to have a Separation or Marital Settlement Agreement that is drafted for your specific circumstances. An attorney can discuss the issues with you and give you advice so you understand the various ways a specific issue can be settled. If you sign such an agreement without speaking with an attorney you may give up rights you do not know that you have. If you do this, you may be permanently waiving rights to something important.
If you do not have an Agreement or some of the issues are not yet resolved, you cannot file for an Uncontested Divorce. Then, your divorce would be considered a contested case which takes much longer and is more expensive from the perspective of paying legal fees for assistance.
Enjoy listening to a recent radio interview in which I speak about a variety of family law issues such as DC Divorce and DC Prenuptial Agreements.
I touch on topics such as DC Uncontested Divorce, DC Contested Divorce, DC Prenuptial Agreements, and an assortment of other issues, including information about documents to have in place before you marry. There is also a discussion about negotiating settlements rather than spending a great deal of family funds on going to court where you may lose control of the outcome of your situation.
There is also a discussion about having a Prenuptial Agreement in place so you can work out how you will deal with your family finances once you are married. In addition, the interviewer suggested that it is best to speak with a family lawyer/divorce attorney so you know what your rights are and what documents you should have.
When you decide to live with someone, it is important to think about the issues that may come up if you decide to end your relationship. In the District of Columbia, when you live with someone, your relationship can become a common law marriage and you can be considered legally married, even if you do not intend to enter into a marriage. A Cohabitation Agreement can specifically state that you do not intend that your relationship be considered a marriage with all the rights that go along with a marriage, such as support, etc. In addition, you may own property separately or purchase property together with your partner and if you decide that your living situation is not working out, this can lead to disputes that can be difficult and costly to settle.
A Cohabitation Agreement or a Living Together Agreement is a contract that sets guidelines for how your property will be divided if you separate. It defines your rights as a couple. It can also expressly state that you have no intention of marrying or if you decide to marry that you will sign a Prenuptial Agreement or just void your Cohabitation Agreement. A Cohabitation Agreement can protect your separate property and income and can protect you from your partner’s debts.
A Cohabitation Agreement can also deal with the basics of how you will manage your household, for example, who will pay which bills, whether you will have a joint bank account, how much you will each contribute to monthly household expenses, etc.
How will your retirement be divided in your divorce?
My clients are often surprised when I tell them that their retirement assets may be considered marital property. If you accumulated the funds during your marriage, they may be divided as part of your divorce. However, you may have other marital assets to divide as well. All of your marital property will be taken into account when deciding how to deal with your retirement plans.
It is important to understand your options so you can make an educated decision about what is best in your situation.
When you and your spouse make the decision to separate and/or divorce, if you have children, their welfare is one of your major concerns.
If you choose to resolve things amicably, hopefully this will lead to a negotiated Separation Agreement. You can tailor specific provisions in your Agreement to determine custody and separate access schedules so that both you and your spouse will have regular access/visitation time with your children.
Moving forward and getting beyond the difficulties and resentments between you and your spouse so you can focus on the best interests of your children can be very emotionally challenging.
As part of many divorce cases in DC, child support is an issue of concern for many people. I am asked often, “Will I be able to pay my own bills along with paying child support?”
In the District of Columbia, child support is determined by applying a child support guideline that takes a number of factors into account when determining the appropriate amount of child support that should be paid.
The guideline was designed so that both parents share the responsibility for the support of their child or children.
DC Child Support Guidelines
The gross income of both parents forms the basis for determining child support.
This can include salary, overtime and tips, commissions, bonuses, unemployment compensation, interest or dividends, etc. The child support guideline also takes into account the cost of health insurance for the child or children along with medical expenses above $250 per year per child, such as co-pays, deductibles, orthodontic treatment, dental care, etc. Childcare expenses are also taken into account if childcare is necessary for either parent in order to work or go to school.
A question I often hear is “Do I need a divorce lawyer?”
Even if you and your spouse agree on how to settle all the issues in your marriage, it is still very important that you be aware of all of your rights in order to protect yourself in the future.
It is best to have an attorney advise you as you negotiate a settlement with your spouse or have an attorney negotiate a settlement on your behalf. It is in your best interest to have an attorney draft a Separation Agreement for you.
This will help you in the future because you will then be sure that all issues are taken care of and that nothing will crop up in the future that will cause disagreements between you and your spouse.
Whether you call it a Prenuptial Agreement, a Prenup, or a Premarital Agreement, it is a contract between you and your future spouse that determines your financial rights and obligations if your marriage ends as a result of divorce or death.
Talking about a Prenuptial Agreement helps you and your fiancé openly discuss how you and your fiancé will handle your finances during your marriage.
It is best to discuss these issues as far in advance of your wedding as possible. You do not want to be talking about who pays for what and who will have ownership of which bank account when it is time to be talking about the menu for your wedding day.
If you decide that it is too close to your wedding date to start the conversation about a Prenuptial Agreement, you can wait and agree to work on a Postnuptial Agreement. It is a similar document that is signed after you are married.
A concern for anyone going through a separation or divorce is how the property, bank accounts, and other assets you have will be divided when you separate. The first step in the process is figuring out whether the property you have is marital property or separate property.
Marital property usually includes the assets and debts you acquire during your marriage — It does not matter how something is titled.
If it accumulated during your marriage, it is marital property.
If it is a debt that accumulated during the marriage, it will be considered marital debt. An example of marital property that surprises many people is a retirement account that is separately titled. The portion of the retirement funds that accumulated during the marriage will be considered marital property. How the account is titled does not matter as long as the funds were acquired during the marriage.