Divorce? – Now What?
What happens when someone starts thinking about ending their marriage? Usually the thought process occurs when something traumatic has happened – such as discovering your spouse has been involved in an affair. So, now divorce is on the table and you are attempting to gather your thoughts and compile any documents and information that may be needed.
There are different ways to approach dissolving a marriage and many things to think about while going through it.
There are usually residency requirements. Family law is a matter of state law and you must be a legal resident of the state where you file. In Texas, a person is required to reside in the county in which they file in for ninety days and to reside in the state of Texas for at least six months.
Grounds for Divorce
Most states allow you to file for divorce based on certain grounds. These grounds are the reasons for ending the marriage, and in many cases a divorce can be based on insupportability or “irreconcilable differences” which basically means that you and your spouse can no longer continue in your marriage and just can’t get along. This is considered a “no fault” ground for ending the marriage. Other fault based grounds include:
- Conviction of a Felony
- Living Apart
- Confinement in a Mental Hospital
Contested or Uncontested – What’s the Difference?
Sometimes both persons in a marriage are able to agree on how to handle marital issues such as debts and assets without the court’s intervention. This is what is considered an uncontested divorce.
Other times, the parties can’t agree or reach an agreement on those issues, or one person wants the divorce and the other doesn’t – this is a contested divorce and the court (or a jury) would make decisions on those marital issues for the parties.
Do-It-Yourself vs. Represented
Parties can opt to either hire attorneys to represent themselves (this is called “pro se”). It is a pro se divorce when you attempt to represent yourself instead of having an attorney represent you. Some people attempt to move forward pro se to save money. If you represent yourself pro se then one or both spouses must prepare pleading (the paperwork to start the law suit) and file it with the court. Some people can get the necessary documents on-line, with software or a web-based (on-line) service that helps them complete the necessary papers, forms, and documents that are required for filing with the court. A pro se divorce can be either contested or uncontested and either party can hire an attorney at any time before or during the court case. If an attorney is involved on either side, the person represented by the attorney will be working directly with their attorney on everything that is needed for their divorce.
Documents That May be Necessary
There are various types of information that will be or could be required throughout the case. Some of the financial documents that may be necessary include the following:
- Tax Information – Federal, state and/or local income tax returns for the last five (5) years, including W-2’s and 1099’s from both parties
- Income Information – Paycheck stubs from the past six months;
- Banking Information – Statements of any kind of financial institution – checking, savings and money market accounts, certificates of deposit, mutual funds, annuity accounts;
- Real Estate Information – Any and all real estate records including property purchased prior to and during the marriage and any sort of financial documentation related to the property including the promissory note, the mortgage, most recent statement from the lender showing the balance due, any appraisals on the property and the most recent tax bill available;
- Personal Property Information – Any documents regarding any personal property including type of vehicle including cars, motorcycles and boats, furnishings, collectibles (such as art, coin or stamp collections)- this includes titles;
- Retirement Information – Any documentation regarding retirement plans, annuities, stocks, bonds, pensions and/or profit sharing plans, medical savings accounts, whole life insurance policies, trusts.
- Military Information – It is always best to show any awards letters for military retirement, disability, etc. as the amounts will be needed to show when accrual started and the amount actually received.
- Debts – Records of any debts including those from credit cards, vehicle loans, mortgages and home equity loans, promissory notes, student loans and any other loans of any kind.
- Business Documentation – if a spouse owns their own business, all initial business documents including but not limited to partnership documents, financial accounts, by-laws and tax statements.
Divorce can be extremely complicated and confusing, a family law attorney can help. Each case and its circumstances are completely unique and may require very different paperwork, information and supporting documents. If you need any assistance, or have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact a family lawyer.