Divorce can be a painful and life-altering event for most married people, especially if children are involved. In my last entry, I discussed a few of the initial steps when moving toward divorce in Alabama. For most individuals, going through a legal separation or divorce can be a very emotional time.
As a divorce lawyer with a Birmingham family law practice, I recommend that people in the throes of divorce attempt to avoid emotionality as much as possible. Though it is difficult, keeping a cool head is highly desirable when going through such a serious legal process as divorce. The following is the second part of my discussion on the process of divorcing in Alabama.
One of the initial steps in kicking off the formal divorce procedure is the creation of a complaint (or petition) requesting a divorce, which is filed by one or the other spouse. Once the petition is filed, the other spouse must file an answer in kind — this is that spouse's “response.” The petition usually includes items such as requests for temporary orders regarding custody of the couple's children (if any) and visitation, alimony and, or in addition to, child support payments. It is not uncommon that the petitioning spouse will request the other to pay his or her lawyer costs.
Following the petition, the next step is for your attorney to undertake legal discovery. Just as in any law suit, this is done to obtain information pertinent to the divorce. This information will help determine the amount of spousal and/or child support, as well as attorney fees that you may be required to pay — or the amount that you will receive.
Depending on your particular circumstances, retaining the services of a forensic accountant can be very helpful when searching for your spouse's potentially hidden assets. This kind of accountant can also assist in analyzing your overall debts and assets. Others professionals involved in this process may include CPAs, appraiser and tax advisors, who can help you become aware of the tax implications and other potential risks of hanging onto or giving up property.
Prior to the commencement of settlement negotiations, it is wise to know what items you want the agreement to cover. Being able to understand the various tax consequences or other financial issues tied to each offer and counteroffer made during the negotiations is critical to a successful outcome. This is why having a qualified divorce lawyer on your side during these negotiations makes a great deal of sense.
As an unemotional advocate, an attorney can make the entire process much easier. As I have said before, keeping any possible anger out of the negotiations may help you avoid the possibility of a trial. Since divorce trials can be rather expensive for both of the spouses, this is something you should steer clear of if at all possible.
When the negotiation stage is completed, a settlement agreement will be drawn up to reflect the terms that were mutually settled upon. If, on the other hand, the negotiations break down for some reason, the divorce proceeding will head to trial, in which a judge will decide how to divvy up your assets, as well as determine which spouse will getcustody of the children (if any). During the trial, the judge will also decide how much child support and/or alimony will be paid.
Regardless of how the final divorce settlement is arrived at, either through cooperative negotiation or by trial, when all is said and done a final divorce decree will be created based on the complete terms of the settlement agreement.