Divorce & Family Law
During a divorce or separation, determining child custody and visitation can be the most emotionally trying part of the process. Often, parents are able to come to a decision together. However, when custody is unresolved between all involved parties, a judge will enter a ruling to determine the child's placement. The custodial parent will be awarded final decisions on the best arrangement for the child's living situation, welfare, and education, and the rights of the non-custodial parent will be outlined.
In situations where both parties can agree on all terms without trial, a no-fault uncontested divorce is the process of choice. This means that are no high financial stakes, custody/visitation issues, or property disputes. These situations are either not applicable or have already been addressed with a separation agreement. Uncontested divorces typically move much faster through the courts due to the lack of litigation and trial time.
In the event both parties are unable to come to an agreement on property division, spousal support, child custody, or any other issues, they will opt for a contested divorce. In these cases, a judge is called on to settle these disputes. Contested divorce can also describe scenarios in which the reason for divorce is in question, such as adultery. Since this type of divorce is complex and often unavoidable, retaining legal counsel is strongly advised.
Alimony is the legal obligation of one spouse to give financial support to the other after divorce. Spousal support is gender neutral, and may be awarded to either husband or wife. Many factors are taken into account when deciding alimony such as the needs of the requesting party, as well as the other's income and ability to pay. Other factors to be considered may include the length of the marriage, the physical and/or emotional condition of each spouse, and the standard of living created during the marriage.
A separation agreement is a contract negotiated between two spouses at the onset of divorce proceedings. This document will outline financial and living arrangements such as alimony, child support, child custody and bill payment. If the separation will be permanent, this agreement may also specify division of property and assets. If issues can be resolved out of trial through a court ordered separation agreement, this may eliminate the need for a contested divorce, saving you expense and delay.
Property Division/Equitable Distribution
Equitable distribution is the process by which all marital property and debt is divided upon divorce. All property, finances, assets, and even debts acquired during marriage are distributed in a fair manner, regardless of who may be liable. This does not necessarily mean exactly half, but refers to a fair and decided outcome based on the length of the marriage, age and health of both spouses, whether or not alimony has been awarded, and so on.