Divorce is incredibly common in today’s day and age. In a way, that’s good. Past generations had to jump through a lot of hoops to prove that there was something like abuse or infidelity going on, and even then obtaining a divorce was no guarantee. It’s much better to amicably go your separate ways than to stay together and drag each other down. That’s especially critical when children are involved, as “staying together for the kids” usually does nothing except give the kids a warped view of what romantic relationships look like. All that being said, divorce is still a tough thing to contemplate. Anyone facing the possibility of it can’t be passive; he or she needs to take an active role in the process and do some research into family law.

Don’t go it alone

Divorce cases vary a lot depending on things like how long the couple has been together. For instance, two people in their late twenties who have no children and few assets shouldn’t run into too many bumps in the road as they try to untangle their lives. The same can’t be said of a couple in their thirties who have three kids, a house, and co-own a business. If you think you can’t afford the lawyer, the opposite might actually be true: people going through a complex divorce usually can’t afford not to obtain legal representation. If your estranged spouse has an attorney and you don’t, you’re just walking into battle without a weapon. Schedule a few consultations with family law attorneys in your area. It doesn’t really matter if you’re looking for a lawyer in Atlanta or a lawyer in Ann Arbor; you should be able to find a free initial consultation almost anywhere you go. There may be some advantages to being the one to file for divorce first, but that’s something you should talk about with your lawyer. Interestingly, the overwhelming majority of divorce cases are initiated by wives. That doesn’t mean a man can’t file first, just that men only do so around one-third of the time.

What to negotiate

Almost anything can be negotiated as part of a divorce settlement, especially if you have a competent lawyer representing you throughout the process. If you have a prenup or postnup agreement, that will certainly play a role, but those aren’t considered ironclad. Judges can and do throw those agreements out if they feel like they’re unfairly weighted in favor of one party. Things like health insurance can also be part of negotiations. Major health issues can exacerbate already existing tensions in a marriage, and that can lead people to feel like they can’t afford a divorce, because then they won’t have the health insurance they need for their cancer treatments. One party can be ordered to keep covering the other’s health insurance costs for a certain amount of time, even if the other person is no longer eligible for spousal coverage. Something like COBRA coverage is an option, at least for a few months. If one spouse has been acting as a stay-at-home parent, the working spouse can’t just leave the other high and dry with no source of income. He or she can try, but most judges won’t look too favorably upon that sort of behavior.

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