Tag: uncontested divorce

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Covid and Your Divorce: what now?

Be Patient

Divorce proceedings, including uncontested divorces (which are usually the quickest and least expensive way to get divorced) are taking an extended amount of time because of Covid. Courts are closing intermittently, staff is working in shifts or from home, judges are taking their time getting through civil matters when more pressing criminal matters are also occurring at the same time. 

Assemble a team

We have talked about this before but having a team is so important.  Having an attorney (which is likely why you’re here), a group of reliable friends, close family, a therapist or counselor (we can’t overstate how important this is) and a financial advisor.  All of these people will help you with what is sure to be an enormous change in your personal life especially during a global pandemic like Covid. 

Plan for the Unexpected during Covid

There’s a commercial that says, “Life comes at you fast.” That’s extremely true but more so after a divorce.  You’ll need to update things like medical directives, wills, life insurance and pension/retirement beneficiaries. These things are increasing important because of Covid. 

If you have a medical emergency where someone else will have to make decisions for you, you’ll need to work that out before the divorce is finalized, especially if you have minor children and/or your parents are deceased. You’ll need to appoint a new power of attorney for your affairs and your medical care so there’s no question about your wishes should the unthinkable happen. 

You’ll also want to remove your spouse from your will unless your divorce decree specifically leaves property to your spouse in the will.  While you don’t have to wait until the divorce is finalized, it’s usually best so everyone has time to work out the finer points of the decree. 

Changing beneficiaries is also important.  It doesn’t matter who you are married to, beneficiaries on life insurance policies and retirement accounts go to who they are designated to go to and it’s extremely difficult to undo that after someone passes. 

Of course if you have minor children that adds other considerations as well. You can likely hash that out in the divorce decree. 

Because of Covid, Work the numbers

One of the things you’ll need to look at is how you’re going to pay for your lifestyle now that you’re going to be all on your own.  If you’ve been working, you’ll need to ensure that your income will meet your needs since you’ll likely be dropping a source of income. If you haven’t, will the alimony and/or child support be enough or will you need to work as well?  Will you be able to afford the house, car, boat, motorcycle, etc. that you’ve been accustomed to.  If the answer to that is no, we can help, but that’s a different topic for a different day. 

In the end, divorce is hard on everyone, even if it’s uncontested.  It’s a major lifestyle change and we encourage everyone to take the necessary steps to come out better on the other side.  If you and your spouse have decided that your marriage has run its course but you want to end things in an amicable way, call me.  I’ve helped hundreds of people end their marriage with dignity and civility.  

A “Nasty Divorce” isn’t inevitable

A Nasty Divorce

Ending your marriage, even the uncontested way, can be overwhelming.  You’re finding a number of issues popping up that you never thought about, despite the fact that you and your spouse agree on most everything.  You’ll hear from friends who have been through it and plenty of others who always seem to have an opinion.  Make no mistake, there’s nothing wrong with having friends support you…in fact, we encourage it.  However, below we’ll list a few steps you can take to keep this from becoming a nasty divorce.  

Get Educated:

There’s an old saying, “knowledge is power.” That’s true in every aspect of life, especially divorce.  Educating yourself is something that should begin before you even sit down with a lawyer.  This includes knowing your financial situation, knowing about insurance policies, pension and retirement account beneficiaries as well as other important financial information. 

Tell the truth:

Sometimes the truth hurts.  The truth can be painful and difficult and hard to live with.  But you must tell the truth, especially to your attorney and to your spouse in an uncontested divorce.  If you’re going to keep things civil, you don’t want to be hiding things from people.  Keeping it open, honest and civil is how we get through this process without it becoming a nasty divorce.  

Listen to me:

I’m the attorney. You’re not paying me for my good looks and charming personality. You’re paying me to help you get through this process in a quick and efficient manner with as little drama as possible. You may not always like what I have to say, but remember, I’m doing this to help you. 

Think Big Picture:

The choices you make during this time will have an impact on you going forward, especially if you have children.  Focus on what matters now, not what happened in the past.  You and your spouse have thus far gotten through this in an uncontested manner, saving yourselves thousands of dollars and tons of drama.  Listen to your attorney and just understand that getting this right is what matters most.  

Find a good lawyer:

This is a critically important time.  If this isn’t done right it can have long lasting repercussions in your life and future relationship with your new significant others as well as your former spouse, assuming you have to continue to see them. Do your research and ask around.  You’ll find that word of mouth is better than fancy advertising.  Finding a good attorney who will listen to you and focus on your needs can make all the difference in getting this divorce done right, the first time.

If you’re considering ending your marriage, we understand that it’s hard.  We want to make it as easy as possible for you and your spouse. A nasty divorce isn’t inevitable and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune.  Contact the attorneys at Harmon and Gorove today for a low cost initial consultation and see how we can help you through this difficult process. 

A QDRO in Uncontested Divorce

QDRO

Many people who get divorced often squabble over money.  Not only is money one of the main causes of divorce, it’s also one of the things that people fight over the most during a divorce.  One of the biggest assets most people have are retirement accounts and they’re also the asset that is hardest to divide up.  Below you’ll find some information about these retirement accounts and what a QDRO does. 

The types of accounts

There are two types of retirement accounts that most people are familiar with, savings plans like 401(k)s, IRAs, 403(b)s and 457(b)s are generally offered by employers to their employees. These types of accounts are chock full of benefits.  You don’t pay taxes on the income you contribute to the plan and you won’t be taxed on the income you build over the course of the plan. You only pay taxes when you withdraw the money at age 59 ½.

A different type of employer sponsored retirement account is called a pension.  Pensions are calculated based on a formula set out by the employer and are usually based on the number of years worked and the amount the person earned. Unlike 401s and 403s, you don’t have to wait until you’re 59 ½ if the terms of your employment allow you to start taking your pensions payments earlier.  

Finally, there are IRAs.  IRAs are used by people who do not have an employer sponsored plan and offer similar tax benefits although they have a lower contribution limit than employer sponsored plans.  

What’s eligible for a QDRO

Almost all of these plans can be divided as a part of your divorce settlement.  Qualified plans like a 401 or 403 can be divided using a Qualified Domestic Relations Order or QDRO for short.  QDROs tell the administrator of a plan to pay a portion of the plan to a non-employee.  The non employee (i.e. your spouse) can then roll this money over into an IRA.  Most IRAs can be divided without a QDRO by using just the divorce decree and some other paperwork. 

Pensions can also be divided by QDROs providing that the pension plan qualifies.  In Georgia, firefighter and police pensions as well as military pensions are subject to QDROs while teacher pensions are not as per O.C.G.A. § 47-3-28. 

Once you discuss how you want to divide your assets with your spouse, we can help you get the QDRO done so that everyone walks away in agreement.  Uncontested Divorce can be a peaceful and less stressful way to end your marriage.  Once you have discussed your options with your spouse, reach out to us for a low cost initial consultation so we can help you complete the process in an efficient and dignified way.  

 

On your side

Get someone on your side

When clients seek me out to discuss their uncontested divorce I often advise them about some other professionals they should seek out.  I tell them frequently that besides me, they need three other people on their side through this process.  While uncontested divorce is by far the simplest, fairest and most amicable way to end your marriage, it’s still a stressful time. 

A Therapist

Why on earth do I need a therapist? Whether you want to admit it or not, you’re going through a significant life change and there will be complex emotions to deal with.  You’ll need to sort out your feelings about life, love and any future relationship you’ll have with your spouse (this is especially true if you share children). A therapist can provide you with objective advice on how to best handle your change in life circumstances. 

A Best Friend

You need someone on your side.  Someone who will listen to you, support you and tell you the truth about situations.  While a therapist will give you objective advice, sometimes you just need someone to be 100% on your side. You’ll also need help handling everything.  Remember, you and your spouse probably did a lot for each other and now you’ll need a helping hand with the kids, remembering appointments and just someone to go blow off steam with.  

A Financial Advisor

Your finances are about to change.  Your tax situation will change, your income will change and your expenses are going to go up now that you’ll be splitting your household and going out on your own.  You need someone to help you figure all this out in an objective manner.  If you’ll be receiving a lump sum payout from a spouse’s retirement account or from equity in the marital residence you’ll need to know what to do with that money.  You’ll also need help planning for the future if you’re going to have a support obligation. In all, a financial advisor can help you figure out what’s happening in your financial life so you don’t get behind the ball with your financial future.  

Obviously, you’ll need me as well.  I’ve explained in previous articles why it’s important to have a divorce attorney, even in an uncontested divorce.  We will all work in concert to support you in this time of need.  

If you’re considering ending your marriage in an amicable way, contact us today to set up a low cost initial consultation.  We specialize in keeping things as low stress and lost cost as possible. 







The Parenting Plan

Divorce is one of the toughest things a person can go through in life.  Minor children can make the divorce process that much harder, both in terms of legal work and in the emotions surrounding the situation.  When a divorce happens and minor children are involved, parents must submit a document to the court called a parenting plan.  A parenting plan is a document that outlines a number of things:

  1. Physical Custody: The actual time each parent spends parenting a child, face to face.  
  2. Legal Custody: The ability to make important decisions about your child’s life, (i.e. religious instruction, academics, health, etc.)
  3. Visitation rights for parents and grandparents and how holidays will be divided up. 

 

Attorneys often draw up a parenting plan based on the discussions that are held between the two parents.  In a contested divorce, this can be an arduous process that often leaves one parent feeling like they got the short end of the stick and frequently involves hearings in front of a judge that can often be quite contentious.  Uncontested divorce can be different though.  Uncontested divorces allow an attorney to facilitate discussion between spouses so you can not only get the outcome that everyone wants, but you also save an enormous amount of money.  

After you and your spouse work out the parenting plan, the attorney sends it to the court for approval.  This usually happens much faster in an uncontested divorce because the parties have shown the judge that they are able to get along and work out important matters before the judge has to intervene. It also keeps the judge from having to make difficult decisions that really puts them between a rock and a hard place. 

A parenting plan is laid out like this:

  • You list the full name and birthdate of each child
  • You describe who has the primary physical custody of the child (i.e. where the child will live when.) In this description, you should lay out what days each child will live with what parent.
  • The plan describes legal custody and how the parents will decide on issues of school, healthcare and religion. 
  • The final part of a parenting plan describes how the children will spend time with their non-custodial parent.  This will usually be pretty detailed because it will specify the time, whether it’s weekends, every other weekend, etc.  It will also outline things like summer visitations and visitation when school is out for breaks like Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Also discussed are special holidays like mother’s day and father’s day, Christmas and Easter as well as significant days like birthdays of parents and grandparents. 

 

If you’ve reached the point where your marriage is beyond repair, know that there are options so you and your spouse can find a way to work through the process together.  Uncontested divorce has three real positive impacts.  One, it saves time.  An uncontested divorce can be finalized in as little as 30 days. Two, it saves money.  An uncontested divorce with children usually costs less than $2,000. This alone can save $6,000 to $8,000 or more over a contested divorce. Third, and most importantly, it allows parents to work out what’s best for their children in a non confrontational way that allows people to part ways, amicably. If you need to speak with an attorney about an uncontested divorce, reach out to the attorneys at Harmon and Gorove for a free, no obligation consultation about uncontested divorce today.  

Do I even need a Divorce Lawyer?

Everyone asks themselves all the time, “Do I really need this?”  The questions obviously pops up more often the more something costs.  Asking yourself that about an attorney is something you’ve probably done and countless others have done as well.  You may be able to avoid hiring a divorce lawyer if you’re willing to commit to doing your research and if you meet some of these basic assumptions: 

 You and your spouse don’t own a home or have any major assets

There are NO children

You’ve maintained COMPLETELY separate bank accounts and credit accounts.

There are no taxes owed and you’re  very unlikely to have your taxes audited from the years you were married. 

You’re not looking for Alimony or Child support

The spouses are extremely detail oriented and committed to doing the research 

If you satisfy all of the above criteria, you may be able to avoid hiring a divorce lawyer.  Just keep in mind that Judges are not going to teach you how to file your own divorce case.  When you walk into court, you are expected to know what to do and are not given an opportunity to learn how to file for divorce. That’s something you need to teach yourself in advance.

Let’s be honest, you probably need to hire an attorney.  The legal system is so intricate and so many things can go wrong during a divorce that paying an expert shouldn’t be viewed as an expense as much as it is an investment in your future.  You hire an experienced lawyer for the advice and expertise in making sure that your case is handled right, the first time.  You even need an attorney in an uncontested divorce.

Because so many things can go wrong, even in an uncontested divorce, the experience your attorney brings is invaluable to making sure that you’re able to maintain a cordial relationship with your ex, especially if there’s kids involved.  Don’t make the mistake that so many do when they think they can just do it on their own.  Divorce, as with many aspects of the law, isn’t a DIY project.  Even we hire lawyers when we need to do something that’s out of our wheelhouse.

You should think very carefully before you move forward without a lawyer.   Any agreements you reach with your spouse and file with the court will be binding. Those binding agreements are often very costly to try to reverse. 

Before you go it alone, remember that a divorce is one of the most significant legal proceedings that many people will ever go through.  Do you really want to head into uncharted waters all by yourself? 

If you and your spouse feel that your marriage is broken and you’re in need of the advice of a skilled and experienced uncontested divorce lawyer, contact the attorneys at Harmon and Gorove. Our firm has more than 35 years of experience helping people navigate the difficult path to divorce.