Divorce is a complicated legal process that addresses many issues, including the division of property and debts; alimony; and child custody. Couples may be able to settle these matters on their own, through divorce mediation, or at a trial. If they can’t agree, a judge will decide for them after a hearing. The decision may impact both spouses for the rest of their lives, so it’s important to make sure that all issues are resolved fairly.
Most states use a formula to determine how marital property (assets) and debts are distributed. Generally, only those assets and debts acquired during the marriage are considered marital property. The rules differ among states, and some states have a waiting period before a divorce can be filed.
You and your spouse must enter the divorce process transparent about your finances. This means jointly gathering financial documents such as the last three years of tax returns, bank statements, credit card accounts, investment account balances, debt spreadsheets, and a list of beneficiaries on insurance policies and retirement accounts.
You must file a complaint for divorce in the court where either or both parties live, and pay a fee (unless you qualify for a fee waiver). If you and your spouse do not reach an agreement on all issues, the judge will resolve the remaining disputes at a trial. Before the trial, you and your spouse must attend a settlement conference or mediation with a neutral third party.