Dealing With an Unexpected Divorce: What Are Your Rights?

lawyer with the client

These days, more people are filing for divorce. Survey shows that one out of every four marriages ends in divorce. And while some couples see it coming, others are blindsided by the news.

If you are dealing with a surprise divorce, it is essential to know your rights. You need to understand the process and what you can do to protect yourself.

Some rights you ought to know during these trying times are as follows.

The Right to Have an Attorney

Know that you have the right to have an attorney specializing in divorce. You need someone to help you navigate the legal system and protect your interests. If you have been served with divorce papers, you will need to respond within a specific timeframe. Failure to do so can result in a default judgment.

Your lawyer can help you understand the papers served and what they mean. They can also help you determine how to respond. If you cannot afford an attorney, you may be able to get legal aid. This is where organizations provide free or low-cost legal services to those who cannot afford them.

However, if you can afford one, check their credentials and ensure they have experience dealing with divorce cases. You can also ask for referrals from friends or family members who have gone through a divorce. What’s crucial is that you find one who will walk you through the process, will patiently answer all your questions and concerns, and can help you understand your rights.

lawyer with client

The Right To Know Why You’re Getting Divorced

If you didn’t see the divorce coming, the law requires your spouse to tell you why they want one. In most cases, the grounds for divorce are irreconcilable differences. However, your spouse must let you know if there are other grounds, such as adultery or abuse.

If in case, your spouse doesn’t want to tell you the reasons for the divorce, you can file a Motion to Compel. This legal document asks the court to order your spouse to provide the grounds for divorce.

The Right To A Fair Share Of The Assets

If you and your spouse have been married for a long time, you have likely acquired many assets together. These could be things like your home, savings, investments, and even the family pet. Unless you signed a pre-nuptial agreement, the court would fairly divide these assets.

Even if your spouse says you have no right over certain assets, it is vital to get legal advice. The court may still rule in your favor, especially if there is an agreement before the marriage.

For instance, if you gave up your job to take care of the family, the court may rule that you are entitled to a share of your spouse’s income and assets. This applies to debts as well.

Let’s say your spouse ran up a lot of credit card debt before you married. You may not be legally responsible for this debt. However, if you used the credit card during the marriage, the court may rule that you are equally responsible for paying it off.

The Right To Alimony or Spousal Support

In some cases, the court may award one spouse to pay alimony or spousal support to the other. This is when there is a big difference in incomes, or one spouse stays home to raise the children.

If you were a stay-at-home mom or dad or gave up your career to support your spouse, you may appeal for spousal support. The court will look at various factors to determine if this is the case, such as the length of the marriage and each spouse’s earning potential.

The court will also decide the amount and duration of alimony payments. If you and your spouse can agree on this, it is best to put it in writing and have it approved by the court.

The Right To Child Custody

If you have children, you must agree on who will have custody of them. In some cases, the court may award joint custody, which means both parents will share the responsibilities equally.

If the court awards one parent sole custody, they will have the final say in all child welfare decisions, such as education and medical care. The non-custodial parent will still have visitation rights but must follow the custodial parent’s rules.

Suppose the custodial parent does not want the child to be around smokers. The non-custodial parent must refrain from smoking when the child is with them. Remember that visitation is a privilege, not a right. If the non-custodial parent does not follow the visitation rules, they may lose their visitation rights altogether.

The Right To Child Support

If the court gives your custody of your children, you might also receive child support from your spouse. Child support is the money the non-custodial parent pays to help cover the child’s costs.

Various factors will determine the amount of child support. This includes each parent’s income, the number of children, and the custody arrangement. Usually, the parent who has primary custody will receive child support until the child turns 18.

Sometimes, the custodial parent may waive their right to child support. This usually happens when the custodial parent receives a large amount of alimony.

There are also cases when the supporting parent can reduce or stop the child support payment. Some situations when child support can stop are as follows:

  • When the child starts earning their own income
  • The child marries
  • If the custodial parent remarries
  • The child dies

Going through a divorce is never easy, but it is important to know your rights. This will help you ensure you get a fair share of the assets and that your children are taken care of. If you have any questions, be sure to speak to a lawyer.

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