The Process in General:
There are many facets and stages to the divorce process. If a couple cannot agree on the terms of the ending the marriage, the legal system steps in and makes a decision for them on these issues of disagreement. Each party in this situation must hire a divorce attorney to protect their interests. The attorneys themselves often must engage the services of various experts and professionals to assist in one aspect or another of the divorce.
Equitable Division of Assets and Liabilities:
By law, the assets acquired by a couple during their marriage are subject to an equitable distribution, which can be a 50/50 split, but not always. The identification, verification and valuation of these assets and liabilities can be time consuming and ultimately costly. In addition, time must be spent insuring that assets have not been hidden or dissipated by the other spouse.
The Discovery Process:
The legal process of accomplishing this is a huge and formalized undertaking. Since the parties are in an adversarial position, the Divorce Court dictates the procedures of formal requests for financial and other documentation from the opposing spouse. These documents, referred to as “Discovery” must be identified, verified and organized. Often, significant time is spent going through documents that have little or no impact on issues of the divorce. However, this can be less costly than having something of significant financial importance overlooked.
Child Custody Issues:
The most important issue of a divorcing couple is the welfare of the children born of the marriage. Some of the most contemptuous battles during the divorce process center on children and custody issues. Children are often used as “pawns” during a divorce. Agreement on visitation by the non-custodial parent is a rare occurrence.
Alimony & Child Support Issues:
Determining the Parties’ “true” income for Child Support and Alimony purposes can be a difficult and complicated task in certain situations. If either party owns an incorporated business, then it must be carefully analyzed to determine if the business pays personal expenses for the divorcing owner, as this is considered income for these purposes.
The process for determining an appropriate amount of proposed alimony for a divorcing spouse in a lengthy marriage is not simple as well. Many factors are considered, such as the recipient’s education level, employability, work history during the marriage, etc. It is important to be able to document the recipient spouse’s need for the alimony. The ability of the opposing spouse to pay is an equally important consideration.
Roderick C. Moe is a CPA and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst™ (CDFA) with offices in Lake Worth who has more than 30 years’ experience in tax and accounting for businesses and individuals. View his website and Divorce Magazine profile.