In the United States, it’s very common for people to get married
and divorced. According to the
American Psychological Association (APA), “In Western cultures, more than 90 percent of people marry
by age 50.” However, not all marriages last. The APA says, “about
40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce,”
and the divorce rate for second and subsequent marriages is higher than
it is for first marriages –
that’s a lot of divorces.
Many people who have been through a
divorce would argue that it should be easier. But, when you consider what goes
into the division of assets, it’s understandable why it takes as
long as it does. Arguably, if divorce were more streamlined, unhappy spouses
would be doing it sooner than later, and more dissatisfied spouses would
be filing the divorce papers instead of deciding to stay in deeply unsatisfying
Is There a Simpler Way to Divorce?
In California, there are two ways for a couple to divorce: 1) through a
traditional divorce, and 2) through a “summary dissolution.”
So, yes, there is an easier way to divorce; however, not every couple
qualifies for a summary dissolution. What are the benefits of a summary
dissolution? One, it does not involve as much paperwork and second, the
couple is not required to appear in court before a judge.
Requirements for filing a summary dissolution in California:
- You have been married less than five years.
- You and your spouse do not have any children together.
- Neither you, nor your spouse own a home.
- Neither of you own any real estate whatsoever.
- The total value of the community property owned by you and your spouse
does not exceed $25,000; this figure does not include automobiles.
- Together, you and your spouse do not owe more than $4,000 in debt. Again,
this does not include any auto loans.
- You and your spouse both waive any right to spousal support.
In order to qualify for a summary dissolution, you and your spouse must
reach a written agreement about
dividing your marital assets and debts. Additionally, you and your spouse must
be on the same page about all aspects of the summary dissolution. In other
words, it must be a
Can I Cancel the Summary Dissolution?
Divorce is not always predictable. Even when a couple has little assets
and no children, spouses can change their mind about a summary dissolution
or disagreements can later arise. For example, a couple may file a summary
dissolution, but one day the lower-earning spouse realizes that under
a standard divorce, he or she would be entitled to one or two years of
spousal support. In effect, the lower-earning spouse has a change of heart and desires
to convert their summary dissolution to a traditional divorce.
Whether you are considering a summary dissolution or a traditional divorce,
there are steps that you can take to make the process easier. Continue
reading as we offer advice on how to get your divorce started on the right foot.
Tips for Having an Easier Divorce
Every divorce is unique and no two are identical, so some are definitely
more complicated than others. Regardless of whether you are headed for
a summary dissolution or a complex, high-net worth divorce, there are
steps you can take hear and now that will make the process less painful:
- Consult with a divorce attorney before telling your spouse you want a divorce.
This puts you in a proactive situation, instead of being on the “defense.”
- Run both of your credit reports so you know exactly what is owed and to whom.
all of your financial documents (you and your spouse), such as recent taxes,
bank statements, auto loans, mortgage papers, investments, retirement
plans, etc. and have them ready to show your divorce lawyer.
- If you suspect that your spouse is hiding assets, have a CPA take a look
the last two years of taxes for any clues.
Know your rights under California’s divorce laws. Consult with an
attorney about property and debt division, taxes,
child support, and spousal support.
- Be realistic about a post-divorce budget. Take into consideration debt,
child or spousal support (where applicable), housing, and paying all other
relevant expenses. If you’re going to need to increase your income,
start creating “a plan” today.
Now that we’ve discussed some of the practical measures you need
to take to streamline the divorce process, let’s take a look at the
behaviors that help improve one’s chances of having the least stressful divorce.
Since divorce has a way of making perfectly rational people do irrational
things, it’s important for divorcing spouses to mind their behavior
during the divorce process.
History has proven time and again that a
misstep on behalf of a spouse can permanently alter the outcome of their divorce
and not for the better. For example, posting pictures of one’s new
partner all over social media before the divorce is final can wreak havoc
on a child custody battle, or transferring cash in a hidden bank account
to one’s brother can lose a judge’s trust and result in undesirable
consequences imposed by the court.
Proper behavior during a divorce:
- Don’t hide assets from your spouse or the court.
- Don’t post anything on social media that you don’t want your
soon-to-be ex, their divorce attorney, or the judge to see.
Consult your lawyer
before you begin dating for advice on etiquette during a divorce.
- Be careful of what you say to your spouse in a text, email, social media
post, or direct message on a social media site. Make sure your communications
are polite and respectful.
- Don’t belittle your spouse to your children. This is counterproductive
and can hinder, not help your divorce.
- Be 100% open and honest with your divorce attorney about your finances,
and any discretions that may affect the divorce outcome.
- Even though California is a no-fault divorce state, your attorney still
doesn’t want any surprises so be sure to tell him or her everything
they need to know.
- If you expect your spouse to sling mud; for example, you had an affair,
you were diagnosed with a mental illness, or you abused drugs in the past,
make sure your attorney knows all about it. This way, your lawyer is fully prepared.
We hope the above information helps clear up some questions that you might
have. If you are looking for a Los Angeles divorce lawyer, don’t
contact us for a free consultation!