Couple considering divorce

6 Things to Consider Before Getting a Divorce

Divorce is painful in every aspect. Outside of the emotional pain, divorce brings a lot of challenges to your family, property and finances. Hiring an experienced Tennessee divorce attorney is critical in going through with the divorce process. The proper attorney can help advise you and walk you through the best ways to protect yourself during a divorce. Here are 6 things you should consider before going through with a divorce.

1.    Children.  Children are the first and most important aspect to consider during a divorce. Tennessee laws will work in the best interest of the child, but this cannot take away the emotional turmoil that may occur.

New legislation makes it mandatory for courts to try to maximize the child(ren)’s time with each parent.  The number of days each parent spends with the child(ren) is important for many reasons, including the calculation of child support and the possible future relocation of one parent.

A few issues to consider include:

  1. What school will the child attend after the divorce?
  2. The proximity of the parents to each other after the divorce (especially if the parents are trying to do a “split” parenting schedule).

2.    Real estate and mortgage payments. Real estate is involved in many divorce cases because at one point during the marriage you and your spouse probably bought a home together. Even if only one individual was making the mortgage payments, both individuals are most likely on the mortgage loan.

Prior to signing a Marital Dissolution Agreement or a contested divorce trial, the parties must ascertain the amount of equity in their real estate so that the equity can be included in the division of the marital estate.  You may want to consider conducting an appraisal of the real property in order to determine the present fair market value.

If one spouse wants to keep the home but the mortgage is in both spouse’s names, the spouse keeping the home will have to refinance the loan so that it is in that spouse’s name only.  Courts typically will not allow the spouse keeping the property to continue to encumber the other spouse’s credit.  Under Tennessee statute, a third party creditor is not obligated to honor the terms of any divorce decree and/or agreement regarding payment of debt.  This means that if your name is still on the mortgage and your spouse falls behind on the payments, the mortgage company can still sue you, even if your spouse is supposed to be responsible for the payment under the terms of divorce decree.  This is why the courts almost always require that the home be refinanced or sold.

3.    Credit card payments. In the case of a joint account, both individuals should decide who wants to keep the card and continue making payments on that card. The other individual should get his or her name off the card as soon as possible. This will help make things easier should someone not make a payment.

Remember that if your name is still attached to a credit card and your spouse falls behind on the payments, the credit card company can still sue you, even if your spouse is supposed to be responsible for the payment under the terms of divorce decree.

4.    Car loan.  Car loans are often extremely difficult to refinance.  In most cases, the spouse who is awarded a vehicle will be responsible for making the payments on the loan.  However, if the loan is in both parties’ names and the responsible party falls behind on the payments, it will negatively affect the credit of both spouses.

If you or your spouse wish to keep a vehicle that is financed in both spouse’s names, you should strongly consider paying off the loan as soon as possible OR trading in the vehicle in order to obtain new financing in one spouse’s name only.

5.    Small business ownership. Owning a small business is difficult in a divorce because both spouses may have an ownership interest in the business.  The type of business, ownership structure and the other spouse’s role in the business are all important aspects of the decision that is going to be made.  Unless both parties can agree, an outside party will need to evaluate the business in order to determine its value.

6.   Alimony.  In Tennessee, courts consider a number of factors in determining an award of alimony, including the length of the marriage and the health of both spouses.  However, the 2 most important factors that the courts consider are the economically disadvantaged spouse’s need for alimony, and the other spouse’s ability to pay.

When contemplating divorce, the economically disadvantaged spouse should create a budget in order to determine what his/her expenses will be after the divorce and how much support he/she will need after the divorce to be able to pay these expenses.

Planning ahead for divorce is a hard, but smart, first step. Having an experienced divorce attorney will help to make the painful process easier. By contacting an attorney at James Flexer Law, you are taking the first step.