2020 divorce is all about divorcing with a crystal clear vision of how to move on with your life with your future safeguarded and your peace of mind intact. To help you reach your goals, we’ve put together some great divorce tips — directly from divorce lawyers! Your kids, your assets, your future…here is the 2020 divorce advice you need for the secure new life you deserve.
Our best 2020 divorce advice: 10 divorce dos and don’ts
1. Don’t be provoked into thinking you need to file first
“Fine, then go ahead and file for divorce!” We all know the things that get said in the heat of the moment when making the difficult decision to divorce. When it comes to actually filing for divorce to start the divorce legal process, however, take a step back from your emotions and think strategically.
Here’s why: The date upon which divorce papers are filed (by either of you) establishes a cut off date for the accumulation of marital assets and retirement accounts. If you file on a Friday, and on Monday your spouse’s next contribution to their 401K is made, this new amount almost certainly won’t be eligible for division in your divorce. The value of the 401K to be divided will generally be the amount that was there on Friday when you filed. Look at dates for certain deposits and interest statements and proceed with these in mind. Should you wait to file? On the other hand, if you are the spouse with the 401K, then not waiting to file may be to your advantage.
2. Don’t think you have to PROVE adultery or other fault to get divorced
As you start to fill out divorce papers, you will notice a laundry list of grounds (reasons) for divorce. You will need to check one, and if you’ve been cheated on, you may be wondering if you should choose “adultery.” You can, but beware that extra requirements come with this ground — and not many added benefits (if any). You will need to serve your ex’s paramour and spend precious time (and possibly the cost of a private investigator) proving that infidelity took place and you were justified in choosing the ground. But beyond the personal satisfaction of showing that your spouse was at fault for the end of your marriage, you probably won’t get a bigger settlement or more time with your kids.
Here’s an important tip: You don’t have to prove fault to get a divorce. Filing for divorce on the “no fault” grounds of irreconcilable differences will get you all the same things in your settlement, but won’t require you to take the extra steps (like hiring a pricey PI). You own it to yourself to make your own divorce as simple and smooth as possible. Unless there is a compelling reason, don’t spend unnecessary resources on proving adultery.
3. Don’t get fooled into choosing the most aggressive attorney you can.
Hiring a shark attorney who promises to “take your ex to the cleaners” can feel great in the moment. But don’t mistake an overly combative lawyer for a strong one. There is a time to fight and a time to be reasonable. An attorney who thinks of litigation as your first or only option may have a bad reputation with the judge and may very well increase the tension between you and the other party. This will drive up your costs and can often result in a worse outcome. The lawyer you choose needs to understand when to advocate vigorously and when to strategically negotiate.
4. Don’t try to “win” your divorce case
Many people begin their divorce hoping to “beat” their spouse in court or “make their ex pay” when it comes to marital asset division. For the sake of your sanity — and your settlement — it’s best to let go of this mistaken notion as early in the divorce process as possible. The truth is, New Jersey family law (which governs the rules concerning divorce) is intentionally written to make sure both spouses can walk away from their marriage with the fairest, most equitable settlement possible.
A better outlook to have as your 2020 divorce begins? Focus on arriving at a settlement that puts you in the best position possible for your future, not one that punishes someone for the past.
5. Don’t overlook the implications of alimony payments on your taxes
Will you pay or receive alimony in your divorce? As part of the 2019 Trump Tax cuts, a major change took place in how alimony is treated on federal tax returns. For any divorce or alimony order in place before December 31, 2019, alimony payments are treated as a tax deduction for alimony payors, and income to claim for alimony recipients. For any divorce or alimony order put in place anytime after January 1, 2019, alimony must be claimed by paying spouses as part of income. Recipient spouses now essentially receive alimony tax free. Alimony is a highly negotiated item in divorce. This will impact your 2020 divorce, so talk to your attorney about how tax effects can be taken into account in creating the fairest possible settlement.
6. Don’t drag your kids into your divorce
Ending your marital relationship with your spouse can be full of intense emotion, including rage, bitterness and jealousy. Your children — who are NOT ending their relationship with their other parent — deserve to have their feelings for both of you respected and protected as much as possible. This is often not an easy thing to do, but for their sake, try your best not to argue in front of them or speak negatively about their other parent when he/she is not around. As numerous psychological studies have shown, the more parents fight during a divorce, the more damaging the whole process is to the children.
Additionally, unless there’s a history of abuse or neglect, understand that your children will continue to have a relationship with their other parent, including spending time with their parent alone (via parenting time). No matter how upset you are with your spouse, avoid doing anything to discourage or interfere with a healthy parent-child bond.
7. Do consider staying in the marital home if at all possible.
Unless you are in an incredibly hostile situation or abuse is present, think twice before volunteering to move out of the marital home. Just because your spouse asks or even demands that you leave, does not mean you are obligated to move out. Your house is your family home, and remaining there ensures that you continue to have frequent and continued contact with your kids. Voluntarily leaving your children in the home with your spouse essentially tells the court you are content being the non-custodial parent. Is this what you want? By staying in the home, you may be opening up more child custody options as your divorce moves forward.
By moving out, you may need to pay rent on a new place and still be required to pay marital bills, such as covering a share of the mortgage. Having to essentially pay “double the bills” each month can take a heavy financial toll at a time when you don’t need added financial stress. Being in the home also means that you can ensure that your home remains in good shape and market-ready if you decide to sell. If your situation with your spouse is so uncomfortable or if you are fighting so much that it is affecting your children, it may be in everyone’s best interests to come up with a different living arrangement. If you do move out, it is important that you insist on a written, strong and detailed custody and parenting time plan so that there is no confusion when it comes to your time with your kids.
8. Do explore low conflict divorce alternatives
Maybe it’s because of all the judge shows on TV, but a real mistaken notion has taken hold that going before a judge in “divorce court” is the fastest, easiest way to get divorce over and done with. In truth, it’s the exact opposite! Going to court, rather than negotiating and settling on your own, can drag out the time it takes to divorce in New Jersey from a matter of months to several years, depending on the circumstances. Time spent going to court also means spending more money on divorce. Our 2020 divorce advice? Yes, some divorce include issues that are absolutely better settled in court. However, the simple truth is that most divorces can be successfully negotiated without setting foot in a court room. Find out if a low conflict divorce method, such as mediation, is right for you.
9. Don’t lie and do remember that honesty really is the best policy
Before you’re tempted to fudge any numbers on your financial forms, understand that if you are caught, the potential penalty for hiding assets (or obfuscating the value of known assets) is just not worth it. The easiest way to put yourself at a disadvantage for hanging onto a marital asset? Lie about it. If you’re still on the fence, please see our further reading on the topic: Why Hiding Assets Is Not An Option.
10. Don’t take divorce advice from friends and family — unless they are a divorce attorney!
Your best friend just got a divorce last year and is eager to tell you all the ins and out of the process. Only problem? The friend lives in California, which has some very distinct and different divorce laws from New Jersey. For example, the friend might encourage you to go down to the courthouse to file for legal separation when — guess what? — New Jersey doesn’t recognize legal separation. If your divorced friend lives in New Jersey, the advice still might be off, depending on the types of issues he/she dealt with versus those involved in your situation. Family law can change dramatically from year to year so even the most well-meaning advice might already be outdated. Instead, rely on your friends for unconditional love and emotional support — which is exactly what friends are for!
Have 2020 divorce questions? We’re here to help. Start safeguarding your future today by scheduling a free attorney consultation at any one of our six offices. Get answers to all your questions, and a clear strategy for moving forward. Call us at 888-888-0919, or please click the green button below.