When you first told your husband you wanted a divorce, you may have said things like, “I only want what’s fair for both of us and the kids.” Or, “I’m not looking to turn this in to an all-out war.”
Wise words indeed... But wanting a fair divorce and actually figuring out what is fair in a divorce settlement are two entirely different matters.
Attorney Russell R. Weddell is a trained family law mediator and can assist in situations where the divorcing spouses need an outside, impartial party to facilitate a mutually-agreeable division of the marriage. Mediation often times will be less expensive than a litigated court battle and can encompass all aspects involving custody, visitation, child support, alimony, and division of marital assets and liabilities. The benefits of mediation include saving parties in time, cost, and emotional trauma.
What are the things you need to concern yourself with and how can you come to a settlement agreement you both find fair? This is what you can explore in mediation, which is now available at Percy Law Group, PC through appointments.
Elements of a Fair Settlement in Divorce
Before you can even begin to define what a fair settlement looks like, you need to understand the main elements that make up divorce settlements in the first place.
There are countless issues that need to be determined in the divorce process, but the four major subjects to resolve in a divorce settlement are:
- Parenting plan and child custody (parenting time);
- Child support and related expenses;
- Alimony / maintenance / spousal support / spousal maintenance (determining if it applies and if so, the amount and duration); and
- Division of marital assets and liabilities and determining which assets are considered either the couple's marital property or a spouse's separate property.
Let’s take a closer look at the things to consider in a divorce agreement and how those issues can be decided using mediation.
1. Parenting Time & Child Custody
As parents, you know there is nothing more valuable than time with your children. Unfortunately, in a divorce agreement, unless you retain full custody of your children (and I’m guessing your husband won’t find that fair), you’ll go from seeing them every day to being a part-time parent — and that can hurt.
On one hand, you want to spend as much time as possible with your children. On the other hand, your husband is a good guy, an "all-in" dad who is devoted to them. You understandably want your kids to spend as much time with him as possible, too.
Reconciling what's fair when it comes to parenting plans and child custody are no doubt among the most difficult decisions you'll have to face when it comes to your divorce. Since there are no laws or guidelines around what it means to be a good parent or how you should structure your parenting plan, it can get tricky to figure out how to get a fair divorce settlement and what that really looks like for both you and them. Divorce mediation lets you approach the situation on your own terms.
2. Child Support
Federal law requires that each state have a set of child support guidelines for providing divorcing parents with an idea of how much money their children need in order to live happy, healthy lives post-divorce. It’s not the two of you that this primarily financial issue is about, though. It’s about your children and what’s fair to them. Not what some mandated guideline dictates.
To determine what's fair to your kids, you and your husband will both need to consider in your divorce mediation how their lives looked like before you decided to divorce. Consider also what you’ll both need to do as their parents to try to keep it that way after your divorce.
If there is one topic that causes more questions than answers when it comes to what’s fair in a divorce agreement, it’s alimony — also known as spousal support, maintenance or spousal maintenance depending on where you live. Determining a fair alimony amount and duration is tough, whether you have a long-term marriage or have only been married a few years.
Unlike child support where there’s a starting point for discussion generated by a software program, when it comes to alimony, no such software exists. Sure there are “statutory factors” and other similarly vague dictums but in very few cases does a calculated alimony formula exist. And even those are subject to negotiation.
How do you come to terms you both find fair when it comes to alimony? If you're not careful, you and your husband could find yourselves with attorneys in court going back and forth and around and around on this challenging issue forever with no fair resolution in sight. Sidestepping this unsavory legal battle is made possible through divorce mediation, furthering this legal processes many benefits.
4. Division of Your Marital Assets & Marital Debts
The reality is the parties need to agree on what a fair divorce settlement would look like in their particular case. Basically, we’re talking about leaving you to divide your marital assets and liabilities in a fair but not necessarily equal manner.
At first you might think, "That's great as we'd much rather decide how to split our marital assets and debts on our own instead of being told by a judge in court what to do." But you have to be careful, as all this flexibility can make how to get a fair settlement in divorce difficult!
First, there’s the magic phrase: “fair but not necessarily equal.” How does a couple decide what that means? Is it 50-50? 60-40? Or, some other split? Who gets the short end of that stick?
Then, there’s the other interesting tidbit about “marital assets and liabilities.” What’s in and what’s out of your divorce discussions are just as important as coming to a fair settlement in divorce in the first place. What if you owned a house before you got married and used the proceeds from the sale of that house to buy the home you now live in? Or, you started building your retirement accounts right out of college, long before you got married. Now it’s worth a great deal of money. Do you have to share all of it? Some of it? None of it?
To turn the “myth” of a fair divorce settlement into a reality, it is time to really consider using divorce mediation.
What Can You Do to Ensure You Get a Fair Divorce Settlement?
Ultimately, who decides the settlement in a divorce? Since there are little or no laws or specific guidelines on how to resolve many of the parental and financial matters described above, you can see that there's lots of room for interpretation of what's fair. But there is a way to come to an equitable and fair divorce settlement.
Use mediation to fairly end your marriage. It's a divorce method that enables you to create an equitable divorce settlement that's fair to both of you because it's a product of your own decisions and agreements. Instead of divorce attorneys, choose to work with an expert divorce mediator who possesses the skills, knowledge, and expertise to successfully guide you through the divorce process.
To learn more about mediation, or to schedule the mediation of your divorce settlement, call (508) 718-2545 and ask for Attorney Weddell of Percy Law Group, PC. We have offices in Taunton, Boston, Quincy, and more, allowing us to help you mediate your divorce wherever you live in Massachusetts. See the difference our experience can make for your divorce by contacting us today.