1. Determine the Status of Marital Property in Your StateFirst, find out whether your state is a community property state or a separate property state. If your state is a community property state, then everything you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse own together is presumed to be divided 50-50. If your state is a separate property state, then only those assets acquired during the course of the marriage are presumed to be divided 50-50. Any assets that you brought into the marriage will be excluded from the division pot. Your lawyer can best explain all of the exclusions from the divided marital property in a separate property state. Bear in mind that you must show good cause to deviate from these requirements.
2. Hire a LawyerSecond, hire a lawyer who routinely handles divorces. While you can represent yourself in some cases, divorces have their own quirks and attorneys know how to navigate them. There are filing deadlines and conferences with judges that must be handled. Having a lawyer with you is the best way to make the process go smoothly and to ensure things come out in your favor.
3. Prepare for the Possibility of Alimony, Spousal Support, and Child SupportAlimony, also known as spousal maintenance or spousal support, is paid to the former spouse to supplement the income he or she received from you by being part of the marriage. To determine the amount of support paid, a judge will typically look at the difference between how much you both make. The judge may also consider the income potential of your soon-to-be ex-spouse, which includes education and ability to work, to determine the proper amount.
Child support is completely separate from alimony, and is based only on what’s best for the child. The parent who will be responsible for the majority of the child’s day-to-day care will receive what the judge determines is a fair amount based on the child’s need, both parents' earning potential, and the child's age. Support may be terminated if the spouse remarries, but child support will only be terminated once the child reaches the age of majority, even if the primary caregiving spouse remarries. Be aware of these possible court-ordered payments as you go through the divorce process.