When it comes to dividing the property during a divorce, many states follow the “equitable distribution” rule that most states have adopted. All the marital property is divided in a way that the court considers to be fair, which doesn’t necessarily mean equal. In a litigated divorce, the judge will listen to arguments from both sides about why marital property should be divided in a particular way, and then issue a ruling based on his own interpretation of what is fair under the circumstances.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Couples choosing a mediated divorce have the power to divide the marital property any way they please. A signed agreement between the parties will be submitted to the court, and that becomes part of the final divorce orders.
There is a tradeoff here. If you want to take control over the process for ending your marriage, that means you have to work a little harder to understand what your current property interests are. If you’re not willing to make that commitment, then you might as well just ask the judge to make the decision for you. But if you forfeit your chance to control your own financial future, you only have yourself to blame later on if the property you’re awarded in the divorce isn’t what you wanted.
Using divorce mediation to divide marital property
Many divorcing couples find it best to use an experienced divorce mediator for the task of dividing marital property according to their wishes. Each spouse will be responsible for helping make a list of all the family’s assets and liabilities. By doing this voluntarily, the mediation approach will be less expensive than forcing the production of documents during a divorce lawyer’s investigation.
One way you can help the process along is by getting documents together before the first mediation session dealing with property issues. A checklist of some of the information you will want to gather is helpful. Your mediator might send you a list of the information he requires; if not, you can start here:
- Tax returns for each spouse for the past five years (potentially longer if income is variable)
- Any other ready source of income not recorded (Social Security, pension benefits received, and the like)
- Appraised value of home and property where the family currently lives
- Appraised values of any other real property owned jointly
OTHER PHYSICAL ASSETS
- List of motor vehicles owned and their values
- Value of household furnishings
- Appraised value of any artwork, coin collections, antiques, jewelry, and the like
- At least three years of statements for each savings and checking account
- Comprehensive listing of investments owned
- List of any patents, copyrighted works, or other intellectual property and expected income
- Profit and loss statements for at least the last five years for a family business that is owned jointly between the spouses
- Life insurance premium costs and value
- Health insurance premium costs and values
- Retirement account, pension, or 401(k) values
- Cost of mortgage, utilities, and taxes on the family home and any other real estate
- Costs of car insurance, maintenance expenses, car payment or rental fees, and other vehicle expenses
- Payment schedule from bankruptcy
- Current expenses for child care or schooling
DEBTS AND OTHER LIABILITIES
- Personal loans
- Consumer debt (include credit card debts)
- Education loans
Don’t go into divorce mediation unprepared
Divorce Done Right provides or arranges for mediation services for clients nationwide, and we are often able to make referrals for people in other jurisdictions. We are proud that clients are often very highly satisfied by our divorce mediation assistance.
Everyone must prepare for divorce by having realistic goals. You are probably not going to get everything you want, but a mediated divorce from Divorce Done Right should mean significant cost savings and less drama than a no-holds-barred litigated divorce. Call us today at (866) 337-4448 if you have any questions or if you’re ready to schedule a consultation about how our services can help you.