The vast majority of divorce cases are settled out of court by mutual agreement. Therefore, once you decide to divorce, the goal should be for you and your spouse to sign a divorce agreement, typically called a Marital Settlement Agreement.
Below is a general list of 5 steps for settling your divorce out of court that can save you big on divorce lawyer fees.
1. Agree about the Kids.
Draft up a written custody and parenting time agreement for your children.
2. Inventory the Marital Assets and Debts
Make a joint list or spreadsheet of all marital assets and debts in both names or individual names. For assets, include real property, bank accounts, investment accounts, and all pension or retirement accounts (IRAs, 401ks, pension and/or profit-sharing plans, annuities).
For any accounts in one spouse’s name, exchange account statements for the last three years to identify additional sources of income and any large withdrawals. Also include personal property, such as furniture, art, and jewelry.
If there are any businesses, or premarital, partially premarital, inherited, or other more complex assets, consult with an experienced divorce and family lawyer about how such assets are treated under New Jersey law and to protect your interests.
For the marital debts, obtain current credit reports listing the outstanding debts in each of your names.
3. Gather Insurance Policies
Make a joint list of all health insurance policies, health savings accounts, life insurance policies, and safe deposit box contents.
4. Calculate the Marital Income.
Identify all sources and amounts of total income for each of you. For any employment compensation involving bonuses, commissions, stock options, or other incentive compensation, consult with an experienced divorce and family lawyer as to how these are valued and divided under New Jersey law.
5. Calculate Expenses.
On the income spreadsheet, list the total amount of all current expenses for the household. Include expenses for the children and college costs, if being paid.
Identify what you would each like your post-divorce financial life to look like. Does one of you want to keep the marital home? Do you want to sell the home and/or other real property and each purchase separate residences? How much do you want to have saved in retirement? Use your goals to list anticipated post-divorce expenses, including future college costs, if any.
Getting started with these 5 steps can go a long way to saving you on legal fees while putting you in the driver’s seat of your post-divorce future.
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