DO NOT INVOLVE OR DISPLAY ANGER IN FRONT OF YOUR CHILDREN: This is the saddest, most destructive, and utterly pointless things any parent can do to themselves and their children in a Divorce. The Court may likely, and justifiably, punish you in some fashion if it perceives such behavior and only you and your children lose. NEVER involve your children in the process and, no matter how badly your spouse behaves, NEVER speak ill of him or her.
GATHER COPIES OF ALL FINACIAL RECORDS: An equitable division of marital assets and debts is one of the primary goals in any divorce proceeding. This can be unduly complicated, and cause unnecessary litigation and expense, if one or both of the parties tries to hide, destroy or misrepresent marital assets and debts. Often, one of the parties will have assumed control of the bills and financial records during the marriage, either naturally and innocently, or with intent to hide and control such information from the start. Take the time and opportunity to make copies of these records while avoiding confrontation and make an inventory of what you cannot locate. Do not destroy or hide such records. If your spouse is reasonable, you can ask for copies of the records you have not been able to locate and, if not, at least you have a coherent list of what your attorney will need to formally request. Records should include, but not be limited to, the latest available:
- Pay Stubs
- Last Three (3) Years Tax Returns (with all attachments)
- Bank Statements (credit card, checking, savings, CD’s, etc.)
- Retirement Statements (Social Security, 401K, Pension, Retirement Benefit Plans, etc.)
- Stock Portfolios
- Insurance Policies (with schedule of surrender or cash values)
- Financial Statements
- Mortgage and Equity Line Statements
- Car Loan Statements’
- Student Loan Statements (for which either party is responsible)
- Inventory of Any Valuable Collectables
If you have assets that are yours, separate from the marriage, (bequests or assets you brought, and did not merge, into the marriage), a complete paper trail will be required for these as well. Make an inventory of major household items and furnishings. If nothing else, pictures or a video room by room will suffice.
DETERMINE WHAT YOU CAN AGREE ON AND CONSULT COUNSEL: Often parties can agree upon many issues: who will be the custodial or residential parent? Will one of you stay in the current home or can you agree to list the home with an agreed realtor? How will you divide the household items? The party leaving the marital home will generally be permitted to take enough furnishings to reasonably set up a new household and it is almost never wise to pay attorneys to litigate this issue. Will you each take the car (and loan) on the vehicle you are currently driving? Who can most reasonably, and reliably, continue to extend health insurance to the Children. Can you agree upon an amount and term of spousal support, if applicable?
COMMON ERRORS OR FAILED STRATEGIES THAT PARTIES FIGHT OVER POINTELESSY: Child Support or thinking that “Shared Parenting” will reduce child support. After taking consideration of certain things (spousal support, out of pocket contributions to health insurance, day care, etc.) child support is computed by a computer program so it is often pointless to argue about unless there is a legitimate reason to “deviate” from what the computer concludes.
Another common error is that the outcome of the divorce will be impacted by the infidelity of a spouse. Most States, including Ohio, have “no fault” divorce and the division of assets, debts and parental responsibilities is, generally, determined without reference to such issues. Finally, Ohio no longer has “common law marriage”. Parental responsibilities regarding children born outside of marriage are handled in “Juvenile” , not “Domestic” Court.