Dividing assets requires that all assets you have must be listed with its current market value as well as what you still owe on it. For example, your car may have cost $10,000 new, but is only worth 5,000 now, and you may still owe $3,500 before it is paid off. Therefore, its value is actually $1,500.
There are two types of property, marital and non-marital. Property that you owned before marriage is non-marital and you may keep it. This includes gifts given to you by your spouse such as an engagement gift, a car, or even a house if it was a gift.
When people divide marital property, they each need to identify:
1. What they really want
2. What they don’t care about
3. What they would like to have
4. What their spouse really wants
5. What their spouse doesn’t care about
6. What their spouse would like to have
It provides a starting point to be able to reach an agreement.
Monetary assets include equity in a house, bank accounts, life insurance, stocks and bonds, retirement accounts, and other joint assets. Retirement accounts are valued as if you were retiring today.
Debts include mortgages, car loans, mortgages, credit card debt, and other debts which affect the value of your assets. How to divide it may still be fuzzy, and that’s where the negotiations are important. The courts have forms for you to fill out where you list everything and calculate total assets. Sometimes, couples may close or freeze joint accounts, keep track of debts paid or accrued to keep the list of assets up to date during their separation.
A custody petition is filed when children are involved. Although separate from the divorce filing, it is still in family court, therefore, you can handle both at the same time. The best interest of the child should be the driving force behind decisions. For example, allowing children to stay at the school where they have been attending and to keep the friends that they have are very important. Issues such as which parent has the most time to spend with the child or which one has family close by can influence final decisions. The primary caregiver is the parent that usually is awarded a greater custody role.
When one parent has both physical custody and legal custody, they have what is called sole custody. Legal custody means the right to make decisions concerning the upbringing of the child. The non-custodial parent usually will get regular visitation rights when the other parent gets sole custody.
When both parents get to have a say in their child’s upbringing, it is called joint custody. Joint custody can also include joint physical custody which means that the child lives with both parents at different times. Joint custody can also include joint legal custody which means that both parents have equal say in decisions concerning the child. A judge can grant joint legal custody and sole physical custody or vice versa.
Divided or alternating custody means that the parents split the time the child lives with them and share legal custody.
Split custody means that the custody of one child is given to one parent and the custody of another is given to the other parent. This is not common.