Key Issues When Childless Couples Divorce

Divorce for Couples Without Children

When people think about difficult divorces, they may first consider estranged parents. After all, these couples must continue to co-parent together even after their own relationship has come to an end, and matters like child custody and support can lead to conflicts during negotiations. However, couples without children also face their own challenges during a divorce. Some of the most significant issues can relate to the financial side of the end of a marriage, such as property division and spousal support.

Lingering Financial Issues During Divorce

Even long after the emotional issues that come with a divorce are settled, the financial implications can have a long-term, lingering impact. This is exacerbated in a high-conflict divorce or a divorce in which one party feels betrayed by the other. However, even if a couple is relatively amicable, they may face a difficult time hammering out the financial matters with the help of their respective family law attorneys.

After the divorce is finalized, the decisions made in terms of property division, spousal support and other key issues will affect both parties’ financial health in the long term. For that matter, while parents may be particularly concerned with issues related to child custody, the financial after effects of divorce can be jarring for any couple going through the experience.

When you meet with a family lawyer, one of the first questions you will be asked is about your financial situation. Separate property determination, alimony, asset division and other matters can occupy a significant amount of time and energy during the negotiations process. This can be even more the case when a couple has substantial assets to be split. Couples with smaller financial profiles may have fewer assets to argue about, while those with large investment portfolios or closely held businesses may find themselves negotiating for a long time in order to reach a resolution.

Preparing for the Divorce

When you visit a divorce lawyer, you will need to bring your key documents in order for them to understand the full picture of the financial situation. You will need to disclose your budgets, assets, liabilities, expenses, debts, investments and other financial information to your lawyer. Some of the information that you need include the following:

  • Tax returns
  • Pay documents and employment contracts
  • Bank account information
  • Retirement account or 401(k) statements
  • Insurance policies
  • Investment accounts and statements
  • Pension plan documents
  • Credit card bills
  • Real estate deeds
  • Mortgage documentation
  • Loan paperwork
  • Lists of property and valuable items
  • Auto documents
  • Cryptocurrency records

You will also need to think about the items that are most important to you in the divorce settlement. Some people may be particularly tied to the marital home. However, couples without children may find the family home to be less sentimental of an asset. This can help you to make a clear decision about how to handle its resolution based on your financial interests rather than a desire to preserve the property for your family in the future.

In some cases, one person may exchange other assets for the home; in other cases, the party who wants to stay in the home may need to refinance the mortgage in their own name and buy out the other spouse. This may be easily achievable for some couples but difficult for others. By reviewing your financial information, your family lawyer may be able to provide advice and guidance. For many couples, especially given a decent real estate market, they may do better to sell the home and divide the expenses and assets as part of the marital settlement agreement.

Determining Your Approach to Divorce

You can work together with your divorce attorney to determine your strategy for the divorce process. The best choice may vary substantially from one couple to another. Because you do not have children, you may be less concerned about protecting a future co-parenting relationship. At the same time, you may want to avoid a high-conflict situation and a long, drawn-out process by refraining from litigation.

Some couples may face intense conflict that they find difficult to resolve and head directly toward litigation in New Jersey family court. Others who can takea more amicable approach may find that structured options like collaborative divorce or mediation allow them to work out their issues with the support of professionals, including family law attorneys. Many, couples pursue a negotiated conclusion to the marriage, with both parties’ family lawyers arranging meetings and trading proposals to reach a settlement on financial matters.

Parents often seek to refrain from litigation in order to protect their children from emotional harm. However, couples without children also have good reasons to avoid litigation when necessary. Going through a trial is often more expensive than other choices because both you and your divorce lawyer must maintain a strict schedule, prepare for court, hire expert witnesses, research points of law and other challenges that are part of the adversarial court process. At the same time, some divorces where both parties are unable to achieve an agreement may be best settled with litigation as it is otherwise impossible to reach a settlement.

Mediation or collaborative divorce are options that work to preserve a friendship or other amicable relationship. They may afford a more flexible schedule and an approach that focuses on a “win-win” outcome. This means that it may offer the opportunity to process emotional pain in a lower-conflict context. If the collaborative divorce or mediation approach is not right for you, however, you can choose regular divorce negotiations, in which both parties’ family law attorneys present proposals to one another. By reaching a settlement agreement outside of court, you can often reduce the number of hours of legal help that you need, helping to prepare for a more secure financial future.

Understanding Key Financial Decisions

One of the first steps in reaching a divorce settlement is identifying separate property, which is not up for division in the settlement. In general, this is the property that either spouse brought into the marriage. Changes to that property, however, may be part of the marital estate. For example, if one spouse inherited a home from their parents, that could be separate property. However, the value of renovations and improvements during the marriage could be part of the marital estate. The most common types of separate property include assets from before marriage, gifts and inheritances, earnings after separation, and the portion of retirement accounts accumulated prior to the marriage.

Alimony decisions are based on the length of the marriage, the financial situation of each party, the age of the parties and many other individualized factors. Some alimony is temporary, while other alimony orders are for an open duration. In addition, the division of the assets of the marriage is often the most challenging part of the settlement. New Jersey is an equitable distribution state, which means that assets are not divided in half automatically at the end of a marriage. Instead, the agreement should reflect a fair division of property between both spouses. After the divorce is finalized, without children to tie you together, you are free to go your separate ways and pursue your own future.

Consult a New Jersey Family Lawyer

Divorce is not only a challenging emotional time; it can have significant effects on the financial future of all couples, even when no children are involved. Contact the experienced New Jersey divorce attorneys at Lawrence Law by calling 908-645-1000 or by completing and submitting our online contact form for a consultation about finances and your divorce at our office.

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