Divorce, or Dissolution of Marriage, can affect everything in your life: your income, your assets, your children, friends, relatives, in-laws, and your emotional state. While each case is different—some moving along relatively smoothly, others being contested at every juncture—how your case plays out depends on you, your spouse, and your respective attorneys.
The case formally begins when you or your spouse files a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. The other party files a Response. At this point each party is required to provide a Financial Affidavit form, along with various documents regarding income and assets.
While the case is pending, the parties obtain necessary information and documents, and address issues of parenting time and finances on an interim basis.
The case ends when a Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage is entered, which addresses all matters at issue. This is most often accomplished by the parties entering into a Marital Settlement Agreement addressing financial matters, and a Parenting Agreement regarding the children. If any matters are not resolved by agreement, the Court will hold a trial and decide those disputes. The Court’s ruling will be incorporated into the Judgment.
Maintenance is spousal support, formerly known as alimony. Maintenance is gender neutral; it can be awarded to either spouse. Maintenance can be paid in installments or in a lump sum. It can be made modifiable or non-modifiable. Maintenance can be paid for a specific duration, or it can be permanent. As with all financial aspects of a divorce, it will depend on the totality of your circumstances. The length and amount of maintenance payments are set by statutory formula, which is adjustable according to the factors described in the statute. The statutory formula does not apply to families with annual income over $500,000.
Classification of Property: In a divorce, property is classified as marital or non-marital, depending on how and when it was acquired.
Marital property consists of any assets acquired during the marriage, unless it was acquired by gift, inheritance, or in exchange for non-marital property.
Non-marital property consists of property owned prior to the marriage, or property acquired by gift, inheritance, or in exchange for other non-marital property.
Non-marital property may become marital if it is commingled with marital property. For example, if you own a $10,000 CD before you are married:
It will remain non-marital, provided that you keep it in your name, and separate from any marital property;
It will become marital if you move the funds into a joint account, or use them to purchase a jointly titled asset, like a home.
Allocation of Property: Each party is allocated their non-marital property. Marital property is then equitably allocated between the parties. An equitable division may or may not be an equal division. That will depend on the application of numerous statutory factors to your situation.
Please see Child-Related Matters.