Divorce 101: You Just Found Out

Your Divorce 101 Tutorial: How to handle your finances, emotions, and children when you've just found out you are leaving or your spouse is leaving you.

First, it's difficult to control all of the emotions that will rise up throughout the day (and night if you can't sleep). This is normal. You have a lot on your mind. You now need to consider how you will go about your life as a single, yet, you may still be tied into the relationship and keep trying to fix it for a while.

It takes time to realize that it's actually over. Some people will try to hold onto the relationship instead of letting their spouse go; this can be frustrating. There is grief and denial and anger, and hardly any relief from it when you realize you are divorcing. It seems like doomsday has fallen on you while it's actually happening, yet there will be an end to it. Time does heal a lot of the pains. Divorce 101 Tip: You can eventually move on, but do take some time for yourself and learn more about what you want now.

Real-Divorce's Best Relationship Advice: Even though a divorce is about a couple, essentially, each party must own up to his/her own faults and problems that he/she brought into the relationship. It is a good time to work on this, or else the same problems will just follow you into your next relationship. So, go to a retreat, take a vacation, get away to clear your head, even if it's only a walk in your favorite spot in the woods or the beach. But DO something to care for yourself now and regularly throughout this process.

Divorce 101 Tip: As soon as you and your spouse are living separately (but do check your state's guidelines), a parent would be able to file for child support. It's usually free or very low cost to apply, and you do not have to wait for the divorce AT ALL!! See the Child Support Series for more information about this and the links to apply right away. I can't stress this enough!

Divorce 101-Later in the Process--Some Divorce Advice

How to handle the things that arise later in the process of divorce, when things really begin changing and you must begin making decisions that will affect you for years or decades to come. How you handle these decisions now is really important!

This is where you'll begin working on the "finances" of divorce, or divorce costs. I'll discuss filing fees, online divorces, uncontested versus contested divorces, moving out/keeping your home, working, alimony, child support, custody, and many other topics here. It costs a lot more to support two households, so money will be tighter for both parties.

Finances: You will need to inventory everything you and your spouse both own together and separately. Make your own list, which you will later transfer onto a legal document called a marital settlement agreement, property settlement agreement, or a case information statement. Read the property division series for more information about dividing property.

Divorce Costs: Each county/state charges varying amounts, so you can check your county's website or call for the amount. I paid about $160 in NJ in 2009.

If you wish to complete your own paperwork, you totally can, but do read this list of ways to divorce so that you understand your options:

  • Contested Divorce Costs: Very high! With a contested divorce, one spouse finds a "fault" with the other and uses an attorney to bring the point home and obtain extra benefits for the plaintiff spouse. It is possible that only one spouse obtains an attorney. Although sometimes in the end it would be worth it, most couples do choose an uncontested divorce solely because of the price of litigation. The divorce costs with a contested divorce are thousands.

  • Uncontested Divorce Costs: Much lower--the lowest, actually. Pro se means that you do everything for yourself and complete the forms and represent yourself in court. Or you may use an online divorce company or a legal paperwork company such as RocketLawyer (RL gives you the online software and you complete the forms yourself--you will have access to attorneys for a discounted rate also, if needed) or LegalZoom (which completes the forms FOR you).

Moving out or keeping your home?: This is an important consideration with today's housing market. You may wish to stay, for instance if you really love the home and can afford it, but it's more likely to happen for those who want to keep it in their side of the family or those who's mortgages are almost paid off and may have assets available to buy out their spouse.

Moving out is the most typical option, however, selling a home is difficult now. If there are debts, foreclosure, or bankruptcy, it is possible to share them, or agree to split these debts in a particular way. Divorce 101 Tip: If you do have debt, you can learn more about how to clear debt by reading the Debt Series.

Alimony: There is no easy way to tell you that you will or will not receive alimony benefits. There are some couples who agree to a certain amount, get it in writing, and file for an uncontested divorce--so the judge would likely approve it. But for most other couples, the idea of alimony brings up hatred and disgust, as most men wish to avoid paying it.

The truth is this:
  • Alimony is given to help an ex-spouse financially, sometimes temporarily and sometimes permanently. There are different types of alimony available--check your state.

  • Every situation is different,

  • If you know you will contest your divorce and use an attorney, this is a good way to bring up a case for alimony.
  • If you think you will have an uncontested divorce but wanted to receive alimony, you can represent yourself in court, but the case would become contested.

  • If a female can work full time, and was planning on going back to work if she was staying home, this will lessen the amount of alimony that "could" be awarded.

  • Divorce 101 Tip: If a couple has children and the wife wants to stay home, many courts see this as a lifestyle choice and will impute an income for the mother, again, possibly lessening the amount.

Divorce 101--Custody

Divorce 101 and Custody--what you need to know to plan easier visitation times/days with your co-parent.

My best divorce advice is to keep things as normal as possible, such as, if Dad always takes the kids to soccer on Weds., let him keep on doing that and maybe plan the overnights around that. If Mom takes the kids to school, great, or maybe she'll need to start sending them on the bus so she can get to work also. The kids will develop their new routines, which hopefully, they will eventually be ok with. Or if Mom must work on Friday nights, then Dad will take the kids then. Be flexible. It makes it easier on the kids emotionally also.

Simple & effective online joint custody tools, so effective it is ordered by courts in over 35 states

Divorce 101 Tip: Use this valuable tool and link (above) to help your planning. Custody arrangements and visitation plans can be hard to work out at first, and will change over time anyhow. One good way to plan is to use the Our Family Wizard program that tracks Mom's, Dad's, and Children's schedules, and allows parents to write notes that could be used later for court (if there are issues with a parent NOT showing up, being late, making last minute changes to schedule--this is great documentation).

Real-Divorce recommends:
Anyone who is reading Divorce 101 would benefit from finding out about Legalzoom and RocketLawyer and if they are good choices for divorce paperwork.

Other Real-Divorce Articles you may find helpful after reading Divorce 101:

Divorce Info and Paperwork Series
Finance Series
Children and Divorce Series


Disclaimer: The information on this site is for educational purposes only. It is not legal advice and may not apply to your situation. I take the time to gather the best information to those going through divorce, and offer a place for readers to learn, get support and fantastic resources, and find applicable products that are a good fit for them. You can support this site by purchasing high quality products or services from the sponsors I link to.

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