There are three practical discussions you need to have with your spouse: child custody and parenting time; division of assets and debts; and support. It's best to have these conversations before going to court whenever possible.

If you have children, it will be important to discuss who should have decision-making power over the children's lives, including where they live, where they go to school, and who provides for their daily needs. Sometimes, parents decide to share this responsibility and authority and form a cooperative co-parenting relationship. In other circumstances, parents may decide it is easier and better for one parent to hold custody, with appropriate parenting time. Parenting time is the schedule for the children to spend time with each parent. In the court's terms, it is the number of overnights a child spends with a parent per year.

Another practical discussion to have with your spouse is about assets and debts. Who gets the house? Can one person keep paying the mortgage on the home while the other moves out? There may need to be a discussion about dividing other financial assets, such as bank accounts, investment accounts, and retirement accounts, so that each person gets a fair share. Additionally, one should consider the debts owed by the family, such as credit card debt, mortgages, and loans. Depending on how these assets and debts originated and are paid off, there may need to be an appropriate division so that each person gets an equitable amount of the marital estate.

Finally, it is essential for the spouses to consider whether one or another needs ongoing support in the form of spousal maintenance or child support. When one spouse makes substantially more than the other and the marriage is of some length, then it may be appropriate for the breadwinning spouse to pay the other some level of temporary or permanent support. When there are children and the children live with one parent more than another, child support may be needed to provide funds for the children's well-being.

The need for dialogue before starting a divorce in court is essential to avoiding unpleasant surprises and thorny disagreements in the midst of litigation. When those issues arise after a divorce petition has been filed, time, cost, and stress can surge upward.

If you need assistance in exploring your legal options or advice on how best to advocate for your interests, call Cresston for consultation at 612-470-0529.