This summer I attended the Advanced Family Law Course as I do most years. However, this year my wife attended with me. I was struck by something she said. At one point, we were watching one of the seminars and she commented “This is a lot more complicated than I ever knew!” She is right, it is.
Often, people come into the office after attempting to filing their own divorce using the forms promulgated by one of the companies that publish them. The forms are almost always not appropriate to your situation. If you think it costs a lot to hire an attorney to handle your divorce, I assure you it costs a LOT more money to hire one to “fix” your divorce.
People often say that in a divorce you simply split the property 50–50. WRONG! The marital estate is to be divided by the court in a “Just and right manner taking into consideration the circumstances and needs of the parties.” You also must consider the characterization of the property. Is it separate? Is it community? Is there a reimbursement claim? Were community funds used to enhance the separate estate? Does one of the parties have a considerable separate estate and the community estate is minimal? Does the other party lack sufficient funds or ability to support themselves? Is one of the spouses disabled? Are there “fault” grounds such as adultery, family violence, cruel treatment? You do not simply split things 50–50, the division of the estate depends on many factors.
People also frequently think child support is simply applying a mathematical formula to income. Again, this is WRONG. The mathematical formula is the BEGINNING of the process to calculate child support. After that, we examine whether there are other factors to be considered. Does a child have a disability or other special needs? Is there a considerable expense required to exercise possession and access? Does one of the spouses incur an expense for special activities? Do the medical expenses for health insurance and the other medical expenses exceed what are “reasonable” (currently defined as greater than 9% of gross income). These are a few of the things for the court and the parties to consider in setting an appropriate amount of child support.
Possession and access does not need to be simply the “Standard Possession Schedule.” We instead examine the party’s schedule and consider the age and needs of the children. The “Standard Possession Schedule” is just the presumptive MINIMUM amount of visitation given to the visiting parent.
NOTHING ABOUT DIVORCE IS COOKIE CUTTER. EVERY CASE IS DIFFERENT. You NEED an experienced attorney who not only practices Family law exclusively or primarily, but one who practices in the area where your case is pending.