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Initial Steps to Take When Deciding to Get Divorced

Divorce is Often a Painful Experience, with Profound Decisions to Make

This month, we here at Summers & Associates would like to discuss the initial steps when deciding to get divorced. Though divorce isn’t something that should be done hastily or flippantly, it’s a decision that many married couples do make. According to National Vital Statistics, of the more than two million U.S. marriages in 2019, more than 500,000 ended in divorce. For every 1,000 inhabitants in 2020, three people divorced in West Virginia and two in Ohio, approximately, according to www.statista.com. If you’ve decided to get divorced, some of the initial steps you’ll need to take include:

  • Consulting an attorney
  • Making a list of combined assets and debts
  • Setting communication limits with your spouse
  • Working out a settlement agreement

Consult a Divorce Attorney to Help You Navigate Through the Process

Getting a divorce is an involved process; it takes time and energy to get through each step. Because of the emotions that often coincide with divorce, it’s highly recommended that each spouse consults an attorney. Consulting an attorney can help you navigate the process. Attorneys know what steps to take when and the divorce grounds of the states in which they practice.

Deciding on Fault Vs. No-Fault Grounds for Divorce

Whether you get a divorce in West Virginia or Ohio, both are no-fault and fault-based divorce states. Fault divorce grounds mean one spouse alleges marital misconduct by the other spouse. Such offenses include infliction of emotional or physical pain/cruelty, adultery, desertion for more than six months, or felony conviction. Spouses who file fault divorce grounds usually need to prove those grounds in court.

In many cases, filing under fault divorce grounds won’t have an impact on the terms of a settlement agreement. When choosing a no-fault divorce, you don’t have to prove any marital misconduct. Generally, no-fault divorce grounds include irreconcilable differences, extended separation, or irreparable breakdown of the marriage.

Make a Detailed List of Your Combined Marital Assets and Debts

During your attorney consultation, he or she will likely recommend making a list of everything you and your spouse have. Whatever items, accounts, and property either of you had during the course of your marriage would fall on this list. If one spouse obtains an asset while separated, it’s possible only that spouse would assume the asset’s responsibility. The same is true for a debt. One reason is that having the list makes it easier to sort out what ends up in the settlement agreement. You will probably need lists that detail your marital assets with their market values and debts with their balances.

Examples of Marital Assets

  • House
  • Car
  • Vacation Home
  • Timeshare
  • Land
  • Stocks
  • Bonds
  • Financial Investments
  • Bank Account
  • Jewelry
  • Furniture

Examples of Marital Debts

  • Overdue/Unpaid Bills
  • Mortgage
  • Student Loans
  • Credit Card Balances
  • Personal Loans
  • Medical Bills
  • Vehicle Loans

Set Communication Limits with Your Spouse During the Divorce Process

As we’ve stipulated already, the divorce process is emotional and often painful. To minimize making emotional decisions, your attorney will probably suggest limiting communication with your spouse. Usually, both spouses have attorneys and communicate through their legal representatives. If you have children, the lines of communication could remain open to that extent. However, if emotions impact custody issues, attorneys might need to intervene. Relying on attorneys to communicate can be costly, though. If you can be unemotional when you and your spouse communicate, the limits you set can be flexible.  One flexible communication limit might include mediation or divorce prevention counseling.

Mediation

In mediation, spouses getting a divorce meet with a neutral, trained mediator, often in an informal setting. The mediator helps the couple settle divorce related issues, such as child support and property division, among others. While working with the spouses, the mediator records the terms of the settlement in an agreement. Once agreeing upon settlement terms, the spouses often file an “uncontested” divorce. In many cases. the court fast-tracks uncontested divorce cases; judges often finalize these divorces in a couple of months.

Divorce Prevention Counseling

Divorce prevention counseling helps couples contemplating divorce to sort through issues that might have led to their decision. It’s also known as discernment counseling. This type of counseling helps each spouse own their individual contributions to the breakdown. They also consider what the marriage could look like if both spouses decide to change. Counselors who offer this service generally examine failing marriages objectively without committing to save the union.

Let the Attorneys Work Out a Mutually Beneficial Settlement Agreement

After you’ve met with an attorney and retained them to represent your no-fault or fault divorce complaint, that attorney will get to work. Be sure to communicate regularly with your attorney about changes that might affect the outcome of your divorce. The divorce process can take up to 12 months if you don’t have children, or longer if you do. It’s likely you’ll need to attend a pre-trial hearing or settlement conference to work out the divorce settlement terms. In the end, your attorney will devise a mutually beneficial settlement agreement with your spouse’s representative. The settlement agreement will outline equitable asset and debt division, child custody, and more. Once your attorney files the divorce settlement and related paperwork, it can take up to 90 days to finalize.

For more information on legal services, give Summers & Associates a call at (304) 420-0975. Follow us on Facebook for updates. We are happy to discuss more about the initial steps to take when deciding to get divorced.