Chadwick M. Layton, Esq.[i]
Harvey Waddell & Layton, P.A.
KITCHEN TABLE DIVORCE
Divorce is not a sudden event. Divorce is the result of many events, emotions, decisions and other factors that a licensed mental health professional is much more equipped to discuss than I.
While I cannot speak to the many different causes of divorce, I am licensed to provide advice and legal counsel on how to resolve the many issues that arise in divorce.
One option is the headline of this article, “Kitchen Table Divorce”. This is what it sounds like. Two spouses that have discussed their separation and the fact that they are going to get divorced for months. They have also discussed the fact that they plan to handle the divorce on their own. Neither spouse will retain professional assistance.
The next step is for the spouses to sit down at the “kitchen table” and begin to write out how they will separate their financial lives. This should include consideration of all real estate owned by either spouse, vehicles, bank accounts that either spouse has any interest in, business interest or ownership by either spouse, financial/retirement/brokerage accounts held by either spouse and pensions or deferred compensation.
Next, all debts owed by either spouse should be identified in writing. Examples are a mortgage debt, tax obligations, credit cards, student loans and any other ongoing debt. Lastly, it is a good idea to list any high value personal items such as jewelry, artwork, boat or recreational vehicles.
If the parties have minor children, a detailed parenting plan and child support guidelines worksheet is required along with multiple other requirements. I would not recommend a kitchen table divorce if this is the case.
If a pension plan or 401k is to be divided between the spouses based upon the fact that the asset or any part of it was earned during the marriage by either spouse, a separate Qualified Domestic Relations Order will likely be necessary. I do not recommend a kitchen table divorce if this step is needed.
Once you have identified all assets and debts that must be distributed between the spouses, it is a good idea to get out in the open if either spouse seeks ongoing financial support from the other spouse after the divorce. Yes, this is- alimony. If alimony is an issue, terms must be drafted regarding how much alimony will be paid and for how long. Also, terms should be drafted as to whether or not the alimony is modifiable in the future or non-modifiable and any tax consequences.
Thereafter, the spouses will need to draft a marital settlement agreement that clearly states the agreement of the parties and how the agreement will be carried out.
The marital settlement agreement should be signed by both spouses in the presence of two witnesses and a notary public. One spouse may then go to the courthouse with the original marital settlement agreement and request that the family law clerk of court assist him or her to file an uncontested dissolution of marriage and to file the marital settlement agreement.
A case number will be assigned to the matter. Each spouse must then file a financial affidavit with the court and any other required pleadings.
The parties may then contact the case administrator for self-represented parties and ask to schedule a final hearing for entry of the final judgment. The final hearing will be held in front of the judge. Both spouses should attend and bring all required documentation for an entry of the final judgment ratifying their marital settlement agreement.
If the do-it-yourself option is not right for you, our law firm offers an alternative. We work closely with our client to identify their goals and objectives. We take all steps required to draft the proper settlement agreement, file the required financial discovery and obtain a final judgment of dissolution of marriage.
Our intention is to avoid mistakes and unnecessary fighting. We also serve to educate the client on divorce law and what a fair agreement could like to resolve the issues in their marriage.
We also provide our clients with the option of fixed fee employment agreement for our services.
The law firm you choose in divorce should match your needs.
[i] Chadwick M. Layton is a partner and shareholder at Harvey Waddell & Layton, P.A., located in downtown Lake Worth.
Mr. Layton is also a member of the Florida Bar Family Law Section and the Susan Greenberg Family Law American Inn of Court of the Palm Beaches,
101 North J Street, Lake Worth
Phone (561) 585-4631