What do you want? The question seems so simple, and yet it is fraught with complexity, spelling implications large and small, with the potential to impact your life both short and long-term. When beginning the process of divorce, this seemingly straightforward question is equally essential and daunting. In fact, it is perhaps the most important question to address at the start of your divorce, as it will guide all of your decisions moving forward and provide your divorce attorney with a basis from which to craft solutions aligned with your goals for the future.
When considering what you hope to achieve during the divorce process, it is often helpful to isolate each issue to determine your highest priorities and potential concessions. For instance, financial issues such as alimony or spousal support, division of property issues such as a business or the marital home, and child-related issues such as child custody and child support, each represent different facets of your life that may be reconfigured during your divorce. To assist you in preparing your inventory of objectives, we have provided a list that is often useful to our clients:
- Alimony or Spousal Support: these payments are provided from one spouse to another during and/or after divorce. The intention of these payments is to allow both spouses to maintain a standard of living similar to what they enjoyed during the marriage. The first question to address here is whether or not you are entitled to alimony or will likely be required to pay it. Are you the primary earner in your home? If so, you may be required to pay alimony. If not, may want to seek it. Have you been married for a long period of time (i.e. 20 years or longer)? You may then feel entitled to permanent alimony. Did you raise children as the primary caregiver? Do you want to go back to school? You may then want to seek rehabilitative alimony, which can provide you with the necessary funds to pursue further education or training. All of these questions are important when considering your goals with regard to alimony.
- Division of Assets: do you have certain real estate holdings that you hope to keep or personal property that has sentimental value? Consider all of the assets that you share with your spouse, both physical property and intangible property such as investments. What do you hope to maintain? What would you prefer to sell and divide? Do you own a business as a sole proprietor, operate one with a third-party partner, or a share a business with your spouse? What is the ideal outcome with regard to the business moving forward?
- Division of Debts: what debts did you and your spouse acquire during the marriage? Who do you feel is responsible for paying these? Debts may include mortgages, car payments, rental agreements, utility bills, student loans, credit card statements, any outstanding bills, and many more.
- Insurance Policies: these may include medical insurance, auto insurance, homeowner’s insurance, life insurance, and any special policies obtained to insure assets of significant value. Who currently covers these? Do you or your spouse carry insurance for the family? Are you likely to lose coverage once you are divorced? Do your children have insurance coverage through you or your spouse? How would you prefer that insurance policies be handled in the future?
- Child Custody: this determination may seem rather self-explanatory; however, it can become complicated when accounting for the respective time commitments of you and your spouse, where you each plan to live, whether or not either of you is currently cohabitating with a new partner, and the relationships of your children with you and your spouse. Do you want your children to spend the majority of their time with you? To live primarily in your residence? To spend certain holidays with you? If your spouse is to have visitation with your children, when will it occur and how much time should this visitation include? Do you feel that supervised visitation may be necessary? All of these are important considerations when seeking a child custody arrangement that best serves the needs of your children.
- Child Support: if you are to become the primary custodian of your children, do you wish to receive child support? If so, what amount seems appropriate? If you are the primary earner for your family, you may be required to provide child support. Based on your income, what do you anticipate paying in child support? Note, child support guidelines are outlined by the state of New Jersey and are rather stringent. Although alimony is a more nuanced issue, child support payments are subject to specific calculations that leave less room for interpretation.
After performing your divorce objective inventory, you may feel overwhelmed or perhaps, more in command of your future. As highly experienced divorce attorneys, we encourage you to feel empowered, because fully understanding your goals serves as your first step toward achieving them. When meeting with your divorce attorney, this list can serve as an invaluable asset, helping he or she to chart a trajectory through the divorce process that best serves your needs.
At Townsend, Tomaio & Newmark, our talented team of divorce and family lawyers is dedicated to learning your unique priorities, as we work to develop creative solutions tailored for your future. Contact our offices in Bergen County at 201-397-1750 for additional information and a cost-free consultation.