I’m going to give it to you straight: in order to finalize your divorce, you’re going to need to come to agreement with your ex on a few key things. Decisions will need to be made about dividing property and debt, child custody, and child/spousal support – and you’ll both be better off if you can make these decisions yourselves without the court intervening.
I know, I know: it might feel right now like you and your ex can’t agree on anything. But if you want that final decree of divorce, you’ll need to make some choices. And some concessions.
Is it worth fighting for the family dog? Maybe. Is it worth fighting over who gets the sofa? Maybe. But you’re not going to get everything you want at the end of this process, and neither is your ex. That’s worth keeping in mind. In fact, make it your mantra. Divorce isn’t about “winning” or “losing” – it’s about unwinding your lives so you can both move forward. This is the dissolution of a contract.
You know this, but Hello Divorce is always here for you. Our legal team is available in as little as 30 minute increments to help you understand how to work through the divorce process, strategize to get what you truly want and need out of your divorce settlement, and to help you complete and file your divorce forms correctly, to keep the process as short and simple as possible. We also offer virtual mediation, which you can access on your own or as a couple. If you’re having a hard time coming to agreement, mediation is a smart way to keep costs down while engaging a neutral third party to help you navigate tough discussions – especially about property, kids and financial support. (If you’d rather meet face-to-face with someone local, we have a terrific network of vetted partners and we can make referrals.)
Property and Debt
All property and debt acquired during your marriage must be divided, assigned or equalized. Property includes everything from vehicles to furnishings to bank accounts, tax refunds, real property, retirement benefits and stock options. This property must be divided fairly in order for the judge to grant your divorce.
These resources can help you work through the process of itemizing your property, debts and assets:
- Divorce Navigator – Our tool allows you to complete the 20+ forms required for California divorce (including financial disclosures) on your own, at your own pace, with helpful resources and tips along the way. Save your work as you go, then print file-ready copies to send to the court when you’re finished. Note: The basic version of Divorce Navigator is free to everyone, and the form-generating feature is provided with a $99/month DIY Divorce membership.
- Dividing Personal Property Spreadsheet – Our spreadsheet template helps you and your ex indicate and comment on specific items you’d like to keep.
- Property and Debt Division Cheat Sheet – This spreadsheet helps you assign value to community property and debt, to get a complete picture of your financial situation. This document also helps you determine how to equitably separate these items, based on their monetary value.
An important note: If you are trying to determine the value of a business that is considered community property, or if you think your ex is hiding assets or not being completely truthful or accurate in their financial disclosures, you may want to hire a forensic accountant. This article will tell you when and how to use a forensic accountant.
WATCH: How to use the Divorce Navigator to work through your divorce, in under two minutes:
When it comes to parenting, we’re are all amateurs. Not everything we do is going to be perfect, especially when there are so many needs and interests that have to be balanced. Kids are resilient and they will survive (and thrive) post-divorce.
Custodial decisions and co-parenting are going to be an adjustment. It’s not easy. But remember that you and your ex will always have one thing in common: your love for your child(ren).
Here are a few resources to help you begin co-parenting on the strongest footing possible:
- Worksheet: Create a Thoughtful Co-Parenting Plan – We walk you through the things you need to think about when it comes to custodial decisions and how to handle holidays, educational and medical decisions, and more.
- Recommended Books for Contested Child Custody Issues – If custodial discussions are not going well, our carefully selected list of resources will give you information, advice and actionable steps to take in order to move forward.
- Tips for Court Ordered Child Custody Mediation – If you and your ex cannot agree on child custody or visitation, you both will be required to participate in mandatory child custody mediation. Our tips will help you prepare.
Child and/or Spousal Support
Money is never easy to discuss, and that can get harder when one person is asked to pay the other, or help cover the cost of raising children. The party being asked to pay is likely to focus on the dollars, not the sense behind the request. When asking for support, be as clear as possible on what current costs are for the children each month or for the spouse requesting the support. Show the portion you plan to pay, so it is clear to the paying spouse that the money they are being asked for isn’t a handout, it’s simply a share of the total cost.
You might also need to be clear about what won’t happen if you are not granted the support you need: the kids may not be able to participate in sports or other activities they love, you may need to move to a more affordable location that’s less convenient for the ex to visit. Painting the clearest picture possible is important.
These resources can help you decide what to request:
- Child Support Calculator – Not sure how much to request? Our calculator lets you plug in details that will generate an estimate of how much to request for child support.
- Spousal Support A-Z – There are different types of spousal support you can request. This article will help you understand the options and help you determine one that’s right for your situation.
- Will Spousal Support Increase When Child Support Terminates? – When you’re asking for child and spousal support, it’s important to consider the long term. This article explains what happens to spousal support once children age out of child support.
The Finish Line
When you’ve come to agreement on the areas covered above, download this Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA), and fill it out. Both you and your ex should send the completed document to your respective legal representation. They will use this information to complete final documents to file with the court.
If you do not have legal representation and are completing your divorce on your own, you should have the MSA notarized. Once this is done, the document becomes an enforceable contract.
MSAs can be used at all stages of the proceedings. So, for example, if you and your spouse have worked out all the details of your separation (with or without a mediator), you can prepare an MSA to memorialize your agreement and then go back and finish all the rest of the divorce forms.
Get to this point in the process, and you can take a deep breath. The most technical and perhaps most contentious part of your divorce is done. Now you can start focusing on the post-divorce to-do list, like restoring your maiden name, ensuring your portion of any joint retirement accounts is squared away, and tackling this post-divorce checklist.
Then, sit tight. The finish line – your final divorce decree from the court – is right around the corner.