08 Sep Ask The Lawyer: Divorce
ASK THE LAWYER Rachel Thomas
My husband and I are getting divorced after 5 years of marriage. We get along, but just want different things. We have 2 kids ages 2 and 4. My husband insists that we do not need to go through the expense of hiring an attorney since the decision is mutual and we get along. Do I need an attorney for an uncontested divorce? I don’t think that anyone should step foot inside a courtroom without a lawyer. But, admittedly, I’m a lawyer, so of course that is my opinion! To your husband’s point, lawyers are expensive—Nashville divorce attorneys usually charge between $150 to $450 per hour. The Davidson County Circuit Court Clerk’s website contains helpful forms available for parties who choose to represent themselves in a divorce ONLY IF they do not have children. So, these forms will not work in your situation.
Since you and your husband have children, your divorce will be a bit more complicated. First off, you will have to wait 90 days instead of 60 days to docket the case. You will also have to enter a parenting plan and address child support payments in conjunction with the divorce. Legal Aid of Middle Tennessee, here in Nashville, provides attorneys who handle divorce cases for free if your annual income for a family of four is $29,438 ($2,453 monthly) or less.
If your annual household income is above Legal Aid’s cut off amount, then I think that you should seek retained legal representation. If you and your husband have truly agreed on everything, then you can cut down on the amount of time your attorney has to spend (i.e. this will cut down on the total expense) by bringing the following information:
1. All background information – full legal names, dates of birth, and social security numbers for all parties including children.
2. Tax returns for the last two years as well as recent pay stubs and information about other sources of income
3. Information about the make, model, year, and VIN number of your vehicles
4. All bank account, stock account, investment account, pension, and retirement account information
5. Information about all debt that you and/or your spouse have incurred during the marriage
6. Information about your residence(s)
7. Information about any other assets that you own – boats, vacation homes, cars, etc
8. Notes on a piece of paper as to the details of the agreement, including:
a. Who gets the house? Does this person also get all of the equity in the home free and clear, or does the other party have to buy them out of their equity in the home?
b. Who gets what car, and who pays the car payments?
c. Who is responsible for the mortgage? For instance, if the wife wants to stay in the house, but she does not work and cannot pay the mortgage, then are you agreeing that the husband will pay monthly alimony to cover the mortgage?
d. With respect to alimony payments – when do they stop – upon remarriage, the children graduating from high school, in X years, or not until the death of the party receiving alimony?
e. How do you divide stock and investment funds?
f. How do you divide all other assets?
g. How do you divide pensions – this can be really complicated and even require a separate order called a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO)?
h. How do you divide other debt – credit card, IRS, etc?
i. Child support – your lawyer will have to help with this calculation, as it is complicated. What you can provide to help are the nitty gritty details of custody (see below) and both parents’ incomes.
j. Child custody – Who will be the primary residential parent (usually primary residential parent has the child(ren) over 182.5 days per year)? What is the visitation schedule (ex. Dad gets kids every other weekend from Thursday after school until Sunday night at 8:00 p.m., every Weds night from 3:30-8:00 p.m., Father’s Day, his birthday, and every other year for Christmas, Easter, etc.)? In total, how many days per year does mom get the kids vs. dad get the kids (this can be calculated different ways, but either the majority of the 24 hour period or where the child sleeps overnight are two possible criteria for this calculation)? Who pays for the child(ren)’s health insurance premium(s)? What about dental? What about private school? What about out-of-pocket medical expenses? What about everyday expenses like clothing and field trips?
As you can see, a divorce with children can get complicated and detailed very quickly, which is why I think it is smartest to seek help from an attorney.
Rachel owns and runs the Law Office of Rachel Thomas PLC, located at 114 30th Avenue South, where she focuses on representing persons accused of committing crimes as well as those dealing with family law issues (divorce or child support/custody). You can find additional legal information on Rachel’s website’s News/Blog page (www.rachelthomaslaw.com). Her contact information is firstname.lastname@example.org or (615) 645-9596.The information in “Ask the Lawyer” is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. Reading this column does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Attorney Thomas. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.