At this point, we are assuming you have filed your Summons and Petition with the court and you and your spouse have completed your Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure documents and exchanged copies. Now comes the hard part. You and your spouse have to be able to reach an agreement on how to settle all of the issues. You have to be able to agree on how to divide your assets and how to divide your debts. If you have minor children, you will have to agree on a custody arrangement and child support. You will also have to agree on what you are going to do about spousal support. If you can’t reach agreements on all of these issues, it is not going to be an uncontested divorce. It will be a contested divorce.
Before you start any settlement discussions with your spouse, you first need to get educated! You absolutely should not attempt to begin settlement negotiations until you have at least a basic education on the law regarding key topics. How can you negotiate a fair agreement about child support and/or spousal support if you don’t first understand how much child support and spousal support the court will likely award? How can you negotiate a child custody agreement if you don’t first understand the different types of custody orders that exist under the law? How can you divide your property and debts without first having an understanding about community property and separate property laws? How can you divide retirement benefits, including 401(k)s and pensions, if you don’t understand the special kind of court order (QDRO) and special procedures required by the court to divide retirement benefits? You can’t negotiate any of these types of agreements without first being educated. If you attempt to negotiate a settlement without first being educated, you are almost certainly going to end up with a poorly drafted settlement agreement and probably lose valuable rights to property and support.
We have included basic information about key topics you will likely need to understand before you begin to negotiate with your spouse. We simply identify each topic that people typically need to know about and then give you a link. Click on the link after each topic and the link will take you to pages where we will give you an education on that topic, in plain English. You should read each topic that pertains to your case. If you don’t have minor children, you can skip the child custody and child support sections. If you don’t own a home, you can skip the discussion about disposition of the family home. If you don’t own a business, you can skip that topic. Just go through the list of topics and click the links for the topics that apply to your situation. Get educated before you begin settlement discussions with your spouse.
Just as an example, if you click the child support topic link, it will take you to pages where we explain exactly how courts calculate the amount of child support and we explain how you can do the calculation yourself for free. We explain other aspects of child support that need to be addressed in your settlement agreement. Child support is not just about paying a base amount of support each month. Any child support agreement should also include provisions that cover items such as: Which parent is going to provide health insurance for the children; how are child care costs going to be allocated; how are the cost of extracurricular activities going to be allocated; which parent will claim the children as exemptions on income tax returns; should your agreement include provisions to share the cost of the children’s college education; etc.
The topics we have listed below provide extremely valuable free information that you should not skip. Get educated before you negotiate.
The law regarding the division of assets and debts, custody, and support is exceedingly complex. We have provided summaries regarding key topics. However, explaining all of the legal complexities regarding the topics set forth below is far beyond the scope of this website. It would take thousands of pages of text to fully educate you on the law. Most people are not going to read that much text. So, we are giving you the basics, what we think most people what to know.