Alfredo Ramos | May 4, 2019
Like the old Kenny Rogers song goes, “you gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em,” and that advice applies just as well to divorce proceedings as it does to gambling.
Knowing how to pick your battles can make the divorce process a lot less difficult. Sometimes you may be tempted to give up some things worth fighting for in divorce just get it over with. After all, a tough divorce can really take its toll on your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Other times, you might fight extra long and hard for assets that will end costing you more than they’re even worth in legal fees. Here are a few tips on the things actually worth fighting for.
It goes without saying that the most important thing to most divorcing couples is who will have custody of the kids. All other things being equal, it’s likely the custody ordered by the court will be close to a 50/50 split, but keep in mind that this can open the door for ongoing tension or conflict with your ex.
The court will always prioritize the best interests of the children. It’s often best to be objective, step back and think about what those best interests truly are, and attempt to reach an amicable agreement with your ex. If you come to a stalemate, the court will make the decision for you. However, custody and visitation are not irreversible: either of you can petition for changes to a court order after the divorce is finalized.
If you intend to fight for sole custody of your children, it’s important to have evidence that demonstrates sole custody will be in their best interest. Remember that a long contested divorce takes a toll on everyone involved, including your kids. Be sure to weigh the pros and cons from the perspective of the judge before committing to a custody fight.
Despite the fact that it’s probably the biggest asset belonging to you as a couple, your home is usually not worth haggling over. You may believe that the children provide a compelling reason to keep it if you are trying to keep them in the same school district. If you are the parent with primary custody of the kids, you may receive an exclusive “use and possession award” of the home.
Like any other marital property, courts consider the house an asset. If you fight to keep the home, you won’t receive other assets that may help you more financially after the divorce. It’s important to put your emotions aside, as well as to consider other costs associated with the house, such as taxes and maintenance.
Also, bear in mind that it’s often difficult to refinance a home post-divorce. If you can’t handle the expense, the best option may be to sell and split the proceeds. Remember, your credit score may already be impacted by the divorce. Missing mortgage payments will only make a bad situation worse.
As difficult as it may be starting over, moving to another home is often a better option for everyone involved. (Get tips on making the move easier with this household moving checklist.)
Your financial situation should be a huge consideration, and if you operate a business, it’s almost certainly worth fighting for. Courts consider a business acquired during the marriage as marital property. The judge will determine the fair market value, most times based on examination of the company’s records.
If you can buy out your spouse, it is often in your best interest to do so, even if it means compromising for a lower portion of other assets. If not, your soon-to-be-ex would still own a portion of the business, and they could opt to sell their half to a third party without your consent.
Over time, retirement assets may be worth more than the rest of your marital property combined. The key here is to think in the long-term, not short-term. If your partner has substantially more retirement income than you, you should definitely put up a fight for your piece of the pie. Whether those assets consist of pensions, 401(k)s, IRAs, deferred compensation or profit-sharing plans, it may be imperative for your future financial security.
It’s important to note that federal law applies when it comes to divvying up 401(k) and like plans, but state law controls the disposition of IRAs. If these assets aren’t transferred correctly, the spouse withdrawing or receiving the retirement funds may receive a huge tax bill.
Among the most complicated issues in divorce proceedings, retirement assets and how they are handled requires help from a professional with expertise in the area.
Unless you own an original Picasso or a Harry Winston diamond pendant, for the most part, squabbling over personal property is not worth your time. In most cases, it has more emotional and sentimental value versus financial value.
If there are larger-ticket items like appliances you both want, it's in your best interest try to reach a compromise. If not, you could end up paying many times over what they’re worth in legal fees and court costs just to stake your claim.
A divorce may be the most personal and painful battle you will engage in over your lifetime. While you may want to appear to be completely independent in front of your spouse, now is not the time to prove you are self-sufficient by refusing help from others.
Your support network should include a divorce lawyer who understands your unique situation and can obtain the best settlement for you. Retaining competent counsel is one of the first steps to take in a divorce to protect yourself and your children and ensure a secure future.
Alfredo Ramos is a writer specializing in issues important to parents and families - leveraging his experience in divorce, adoption, and family law cases through work with the Ramos Law Group.
Now that you have a better idea about the things worth fighting for in divorce, the following articles offer more information to help you get a good divorce settlement.
How to Retirement Plans are Divided
Small Business Valuation in Divorce
Avoid These Divorce Settlement Mistakes