The process of getting divorced involves many potential challenges. While some divorcing spouses are able to work together to reach an amicable solution relatively quickly, others can face challenging legal and financial issues, contentious disputes, and difficult questions that can impact the rest of their lives.
Preparing yourself to avoid mistakes is a critical part of the divorce planning process, no matter how good or bad your relationship with your spouse is. From making rash decisions in the heat of the moment to making decisions with incomplete information, the risk for these mistakes exists at all stages of the divorce process, and they can impact all of the major aspects of your divorce.
If you are preparing to get divorced in California, here are five important mistakes to avoid:
Mistake #1: Failing to Identify Your Separate Property
California is a community property state; and, among other things, this means that while most of the assets you and your spouse acquired during your marriage are subject to distribution, most of the assets you acquired before your marriage are not. These “separate assets” are yours to keep, and failing to identify separate assets is a common mistake people make when going through the divorce process.
Note that we said most assets acquired during the marriage are community assets subject to distribution. In some circumstances, assets acquired during the marriage will quality as separate property. Likewise, assets owned prior to the marriage can transform into community assets, and some assets – such as retirement accounts and private-held businesses – may have both separate and community property components.
Mistake #2: Failing to Obtain an Accurate Valuation of Key Assets
How much is your retirement account worth for purposes of your divorce? What about your business? What about other assets such as vacation homes, collections, jewelry, boats, and antique vehicles? With respect to community property assets, obtaining an accurate valuation is key. If you don’t know the true value of these assets, you will simply be guessing as to what constitutes an equitable distribution in your divorce.
Mistake #3: Being Careless with Documentation
From establishing the value of community property assets to dealing with alimony and child support, you will need various forms of documentation for your divorce. At the outset of the divorce process, spouses in California also have a legal obligation to make certain financial disclosures to one another. Not only can being careless with documentation lead to inaccurate (and potentially undesirable) results; but, if you are accused of attempting to conceal financial information, this can have negative repercussions for your divorce as well.
Mistake #4: Assuming that Key Issues Will Resolve Themselves
You will play a central role in determining the outcome of your divorce. Going through a divorce is not a passive process, and issues do not simply resolve themselves. You need to make informed decisions with your long-term best interests in mind, and you need to ensure that you are not unknowingly giving up too much in your divorce.
Mistake #5: Overlooking Important Financial and Family Considerations
In California, the distribution of community property, the calculation of alimony and child support, and the determination of child custody are all subject to established legal standards. Dealing with each of these aspects of your divorce requires consideration of various financial and family-related factors. When going through a divorce, it is important to ensure that you have as much information as possible, and you need to give due consideration to all of the various factors involved.
Request an Initial Case Evaluation with a North County, San Diego Divorce Attorney
Richard M. Renkin is a North County, San Diego divorce attorney and Certified Family Law Specialist who has been practicing law in California for more than 25 years. If you are considering a divorce and would like more information, you can call 619-299-7100 or contact us online to request a confidential initial case evaluation.