Family separation and divorce are issues that almost half of Americans face in their lifetimes. If you are going through this most stressful of times, there are things you can do to prepare yourself going forward. First and foremost, visit the Redstone Arsenal Office of the Staff Judge Advocate for some advice from one of our attorneys. Reading an article is no substitute for personalized advice from an attorney.
In divorce preparation, there are things you can do before meeting with an attorney that can save you time, money and heartache.
Finances: Going from shared living expenses to maintaining separate households can be daunting. Before meeting with your attorney, prepare a snapshot of your assets and debts. In Alabama, marital property is generally composed of those things you acquired during your marriage; this includes real property, personal property, retirement accounts, investment portfolios, checking and savings accounts, and debt. Marital assets generally do not include inheritances or property/assets that were obtained before the marriage. Courts will be fair when dividing assets and debt, however keep in mind that fair does not necessarily mean equal. This is especially true if you were the main provider during the marriage.
You can return to calm from financial upheaval through preparation. Get copies of your Leave and Earnings statements, bank statements, investment and retirement accounts, life insurance, tax returns and your credit report. Figure out what your monthly budget has been based on your household income, then figure out what your monthly budget will be after the divorce.
It’s important to leverage the sources of advice you have at your disposal to include: JAG, Army Community Service financial counselors, accountants and financial planners. This is especially important when figuring out how to handle civilian retirement accounts and investment portfolios.
Child custody and support: One of the most contentious aspects of divorce can be child custody. The state of Alabama uses the “best interests of the child” standard to determine the best situation for any children in question. Some of those factors include: emotional ties, financial stability, physical/mental health and safety, and permanency, to name a few. If you and your spouse can come up with a workable arrangement in advance, you will save yourselves time and money.
If one parent is given primary physical custody, the other will likely pay child support. Alabama looks at the finances of both parents using a standard calculation to figure out child support. Please note that while disability is not usually factored into property divisions, it will be a factor in the amount of child support owed.
If you are not able to reach an amicable arrangement, come up with your ideal custodial plan and vet it with an attorney. Be prepared to appear in court to argue your position and why it is in the best interest of the child.
Military dependents and Tricare coverage: If you are a military dependent, and your years of marriage do not overlap with 20 years of service, you may not be entitled to Tricare benefits after the divorce. Take into account where you will get insurance, whether it be from your employer or on the open markets. Tricare also offers a premium based “Continued Health Care Benefit Program” that offers temporary transitional health coverage for 18-36 months after Tricare eligibility ends. If you qualify, you can purchase the CHCBP within 60 days of the loss of Tricare eligibility.
Mental health: It goes without saying that divorce is stressful. Our emotions can get away from us sometimes; it’s never wise to make big decisions without a clear head. Make an appointment with counselors at ACS or with behavioral health. Finding productive ways to manage your stress is beneficial to the decision making process.
If you are considering or going through divorce or separation, make sure you consult with your team of legal, financial and therapeutic experts. You do not and should not have to face divorce alone. We are here to help.
Source: Divorce Money