When people think of the dissolution of marriage, they may think of dividing property and establishing visitation. However, divorce is much more than that. Divorcing couples need to consider their finances, possible changes to their will, whether or not they can afford to keep the house among other things. Unfortunately for many couples, divorce is a battleground and the only way to reach a resolution is to fight for their interests in court. Your divorce doesn’t have to be that way.
Do you have a prenup?
A prenuptial agreement or antenuptial agreement is a contract entered into prior to marriage that regulates what will happen upon the termination of a marriage. A prenuptial agreement may contemplate the end of a marriage by either divorce or death.
Parties may want a prenuptial agreement:
- to keep finances and debts separate
- provide for children from prior marriages
- pass on the family property
- or to clarify each party’s role during and after the marriage
A prenup cannot contain any clauses which are illegal or against public policy or that limit or waive future child support, custody, or visitation agreements.
Courts can enforce a prenuptial agreement if:
- it was entered without fraud
- both parties have disclosed full knowledge to their prospective spouse of the value and extent of their own property
- the agreement terms do not promote or encourage divorce or profiteering by divorce
Child Custody & Parenting Issues
Parental rights and responsibilities must be decided upon the termination of a marriage for any children born issue of the marriage.
When a court is required to make a custody determination, there are two possible outcomes: (1) legal custody to one parent, or (2) shared parenting (sometimes called joint custody, where both parents are the legal custodians without regard to who the child is with).
Two aspects of parenting are decision-making and parenting time. A party who retains legal custody of the child(ren) has the right to make all decisions regarding the child(ren)’s health and welfare. This includes deciding which school the child(ren) attend as well as what medical procedures are performed and by whom.
Whether one parent is the legal custodian or whether both parties make decisions through a shared parenting plan, both parents must make an allocation of parenting time. Who gets what parenting time depends on many factors including, but not limited to:
- work schedules
- distance between parent’s homes
- the age of the children
- Parenting time arrangements run the gamut and can be as complicated or simple as the parties wish them to be.
A shared parenting plan provides a blueprint for how issues and disagreements involving the children are to be handled. The more thorough a plan is the better as it will help to avoid future confusion and turmoil. A good shared parenting plan will address such issues as:
- parenting time arrangements
- contact outside regular parenting time
- birthdays and holidays
- privileges and discipline
- medical care
A court will not order a parenting arrangement without first determining the arrangement is in the child’s best interest. To make this determination the court will consider factors such as the parents’ wishes, each parent’s relationship with the minor children, and past conduct. It will also look at the wishes of all parties involved including the child, the child’s adjustment to school and home, and which parent is more likely to promote a positive relationship with the other parent.
If an agreement cannot be reached, the court may also order an evaluation. The evaluator will prepare a for the judge to review giving the evaluator’s opinions on what the best custody and visitation arrangement is for the family as a whole.
Even after an agreement is reached, the court retains jurisdiction to modify the order in the future. In order to modify a custody or parenting time order, one party must show that there has been a change in the circumstances from the time the order was established and that a change in the order is in the best interest of the child(ren).
Courts use a formula to determine guideline child support. However, the court determines the amount of support one pays to the other and whether it is in line with those guidelines on a case by case basis. Child support is designed to provide basic support for the children of the marriage such as food, clothing, and care.
When determining child support, a court will look at such factors as:
- the income of each spouse
- amount of time spent with the children
- spousal support paid to one party by the other
- payment for health insurance
- other payments made on behalf of the minor children
The Court retains jurisdiction over child support until the child is 18 and is no longer in high school, is 18 and has graduated from high school, or is 19 and still in high school, whichever comes first. Support may continue beyond either of these events under special circumstances such as disability or agreement.
Depending upon the age of the child when the order is set, there may be a change in circumstances throughout the years the support is to be paid. The parties may request a modification of the order if this occurs. If a modification is requested, the parties will have to appear in court and present testimony and evidence as to why the order needs to be revisited.
The Benefits of a Collaborative Divorce: Reach An Agreement Together
A collaborative divorce offers numerous benefits over traditional divorce litigation. The couple retains control over the divorce process, working together with their lawyers to reach an agreement. When it is successful, collaborative divorce is less expensive than a traditional contested divorce.
At Godbey Law, one of our lawyers is trained in collaborative law. He can also provide mediation services. All of our family law attorneys can represent clients at mediation. We understand the value of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), including collaborative divorce. Please speak with us to learn whether collaborative divorce is the right option for you.
The atmosphere of a collaborative divorce is more relaxed than a trial because the focus is on reaching an agreement rather than winning. People usually feel more comfortable discussing their needs and concerns in this setting, which makes it easier to negotiate a settlement. All divorce and custody issues will be discussed, including child support and spousal support.
When children are involved, it is important to keep the process as amicable as possible. Parents in a collaborative divorce will work together to create a custody agreement, rather than fighting each other at trial. When appropriate, professionals such as conversation coaches and child development specialists can work with the family to keep the sessions productive.
Most collaborative divorces are successful. However, if a settlement cannot be reached, each person must hire new attorneys and take the divorce to court.
How does Godbey Law help during a divorce?
Godbey Law is an experienced family law firm. We represent clients through the dissolution of their marriage, helping them resolve issues related to their divorces such as child custody, property division, and spousal support (alimony).
Our firm encourages clients to resolve their divorce amicably through collaborative law methods. We believe that discussing issues openly during the marriage separation serves as the groundwork for collaboration in the future – which benefits everyone involved. Of course, we are experienced trial lawyers, and we are always prepared to litigate if necessary.
Our lawyers understand the legal issues, and we will help you make decisions regarding all aspects of divorce, from child support to complex business valuation. You can be sure we will leave nothing behind when arranging your post-marital affairs. We work with you to identify your needs and goals and serve as strong advocates towards achieving a successful outcome. We are committed to making your divorce a positive step towards reconciliation and a happier life.
Call (513) 241-6650 or send us an e-mail to discuss your case in a free consultation.