If you are thinking about divorce, you certainly have a lot on your mind.
Surveys have shown that people thinking about divorce are most worried about four things – their children, their happiness, their financial situation, and love.
The law may not help much with love and happiness, but the law has an important role in the other two factors.
Where will I live?
Few things are as important to a person as their home.
When you are considering divorce you are getting ready to permanently alter your home life. This has serious legal implications. Many states require spouses to live “separate and apart” for a period of time before getting a no-fault divorce. This period of time can be significant.
According to American Bar Association research, the separation time can range anywhere from a few weeks to a year or more.
That means if you are moving out of your marital home, you need to have a place to live for a while and you need a way to pay for it.
How will I pay my bills?
Many people that are considering divorce fail to recognize the financial strain they are about to be under.
Basically, the spouses need to now support two households while the divorce is pending. If a wife is staying in the house, and her breadwinner husband moves out, then the wife needs to figure out how to pay the mortgage or rent. The husband could usually be ordered to pay support until the divorce is finalized, and maybe even permanently after that.
Ongoing spousal support, or alimony, is becoming less common, though.
Today, when a couple divorces the law generally expects each spouse to become self-sufficient again. That means that a person getting divorced needs to be ready to adjust his or her lifestyle to survive without the other spouse.
If the couple has assets, those can help each spouse start a new life, but in many cases, a divorced spouse may need to begin working outside the home and may also need to lower his or her cost of living.
What happens to my kids?
Children are the most complicated part of many divorces.
The reasons why are fairly obvious. First, children are living beings with their own feelings and opinions.
Judges recognize that in a divorce parents can get wrapped up into fighting each other, and judges want to make sure they represent the best interest of the child. The best interest of the child may not be what either parent wants.
For example, the parents may agree that it makes the most sense to split custody, while the child may want to live full time with one particular parent. These are thorny issues to figure out.
Another challenge with children is that they change over time. A couple may decide at divorce that it makes sense to have the children live with their mother because of the father’s busy travel schedule.
Over time, the children may come to identify more with their father and he may have more time. So he may seek joint custody. These things are tough to sort out permanently at the time of divorce so it is important to try and plan in the future as much as possible.