When getting divorced many people feel guilty and are perhaps too quick to give up on their divorce rights. That is usually a mistake. You should be willing to compromise, but that does not mean giving up your rights.
You have the right to a divorce
This may seem obvious to some, but many people do not understand this. In the old days, you did not necessarily have a right to get divorced. You could only get divorced if your spouse did something wrong. Now, you simply have to cite “irreconcilable differences” and you can be granted a divorce just because you do not want to be married anymore.
You have a right to all the relevant information
In the American legal system, parties to a case usually have the right to what is called “discovery.” This is a process where each side can request information from the other side about the case. This is important in a divorce case because each spouse should know about all the financial assets of the marriage before a divorce is granted and the assets are split up.
You have the right to property you had from before the marriage
Generally, all the property belonging to one spouse before marriage is untouched by the divorce. So if you owned a car before getting married, that car is usually going to be yours to keep after the divorce without having to split its value with your ex-spouse. That can be a little tricky though, because if you put money into the car as a couple then the car could be converted into a joint asset that must be shared at divorce. In some states, this is called a hybrid asset and the value of the work done to the car would have to be divided, while the underlying value of the original car would not. Money that is inherited usually also is considered the separate property of the person that inherited it.
This varies from state to state, but it is safe to say that most spouses will get roughly half of what the couple earned during their marriage. As we learn from tabloid celebrity divorces, that means that a stay-at-home mom will be entitled to a large share of money from a husband she supported while he was earning so much money.
When defending your divorce rights, you should remember to consider all assets. For example, one spouse often fails to account for the retirement assets of the other spouse. A pension that will not pay out for years into the future has significant value that should be offset. Even goodwill earned by a small business has some value that can be measured and accounted for in the divorce.
If you are having to give up assets in a divorce, you should remember that you have the right to have your debts offset as well. For example, if you own a house as a couple but you also have a personal credit card with significant debt, you cannot just divide the house. You must subtract the debt from the value of the house and then divide the remaining value. Sadly, in many divorces all that is left is debt and the couple winds up splitting only debts at divorce.