You separated from your spouse and filed for divorce. You haven’t worked outside the home in almost a decade and you have two kids in a big house with a mortgage. You need money now. Can you get spousal support or child support before your divorce is finalized?
The answer which many find relieving, is “yes, you can.” Here are the steps to take:
Talk to your divorce attorney
Discussing your financial situation with your attorney is critical to your divorce case, but it is also critical to where you are currently and getting the right advice on how to proceed with support is very important at this stage. Known as “pendente lite” alimony or pendente lite child support, financial support given by one spouse to another while the divorce is pending, can be a lifeline for some. The support can be child support, spousal support or both. Your attorney will discuss with you your incomes, you work history, the ages of your children and your current need for the support. This way, your case can be properly put together and your attorney can file for the support on your behalf. Do not be embarrassed to tell you attorney about your need for alimony or child support, especially if you have children. You and your spouse have equal responsibility to financially support them, even after separation.
Gather all your important documents
To file the pendente lite motion, you will need to complete a financial accounting document that goes along with your paperwork, known as a Case Information Statement. That document gives the court a “snapshot” of your finances now and as a couple. You will need to include income information, household expenses, expenses for your children and assets and debts. You will also need to attached documentation such as income tax returns, so begin to gather all of your relevant financial documents as soon as you can and give them to your attorney.
You and your attorney will work together to ensure that you are giving the court all the information needed to make your strongest case for financial support. Remember, however, that even if you are awarded pendente lite support now, that is not a guarantee that the support will continue at the same amount after your divorce. The reason for this type of support is to serve as a bridge between filing the initial divorce paperwork and the entry of your final judgment of divorce.
Discuss your future with your financial professional
If you are looking for financial support to help you remain in the marital home even after your divorce is finalized, carefully consider whether or not you can shoulder all of the expenses that go with remaining in the home. Do not put yourself in a financial bind because you simply feel emotional about the house. Talk with your financial planner about your income, possible support and ways that you can budget and plan for your future. Be sure to include your thoughts on retirement and how you can plan for that when the time comes. Do you have a retirement account that may be divided in the divorce? Does your spouse have a pension? Potential retirement benefits may affect your alimony payments even in the short-term, if your spouse is at or near retirement age. It is always a good idea to discuss your options with a profession whom you trust to guide you not only during your divorce but moving forward.
Again, your pendente lite child or spousal support may or may not continue in the same way after your divorce is final. If you are awarded spousal support, no matter what happens, that support will not be permanent due to changes in New Jersey law in 2014. If you have a work history and lots of experience or an advanced degree in your field, it is likely that the court will expect you to get back into the workforce as soon as you can, even if you have been a stay-at-home parent for the last several years. Courts look at divorce as a reorganization of the family and changes must be made to adjust to the “new normal” of the family.
Child support is also based upon both you and your spouse’s incomes and you are both responsible for support. Getting some job training, taking some classes and planning for getting back into the workforce will benefit you and your family. During that time, your spouse can help you with finances through limited duration alimony. Be sure to let your attorney know if you have a permanent disability that affects your ability to work, however. That is a factor the court would need to consider.
Work it Out
It is in your entire family’s best interests if you and your spouse are able to sit down and work out your financial support together. Courts in New Jersey strongly encourage couples to negotiate and come up with their own settlement agreements, and you should at least try to sit down and discuss your needs. If you need a little extra assistance, try using a trained family law mediator to assist the both of you in coming to an agreement that you can both live with. The mediator is neutral and serves merely as a guide to get you both to a resolution as quickly and painlessly as possible. In the end, you can both agree on the amount of support paid to you and for how long it will be paid. This agreement will be accepted by the court and can even continue into your divorce.
Of course, if you and your spouse have a very acrimonious relationship or if you have experienced domestic abuse in your relationship, it is most likely not in your best interests to attempt to work out your issues without the assistance of an attorney. A good family law attorney will be a strong advocate for you, to make sure that you are not being strong-armed or harassed into making an agreement that is not in your best interests.
It is a tumultuous time when a divorce has been filed. People can feel lost and insecure, especially if they are wondering how they are going to make their monthly bills. But, if you prepare, talk to your attorney and be reasonable with your expectations, you can secure some financial help from your spouse now, while you plan for you and your family’s futures.
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