Can the mediation reach a custom tailored agreement for me and my spouse?

The relaxed atmosphere of mediation allows for creative settlements that are tailored to the parties’ individualized circumstances. Mediation permits the parties, rather than the court, to control the outcome of their case. The tailored agreements typically result from both parties’ determination of how they will share their children, how they will make major decisions concerning their children, who will pay child support and how much, and how to equitably divide property and debts.

What Happens if the House is Community Property? What if it is Sole and Separate?

Option one is one spouse stays in the house and makes all the payments; the parties get the house appraised and decide the value of the house. Then the party who wants to live in the house pays the other spouse half the value of the house. This can be paid with cash in a refinance or can be “horse-traded” with other assets. Option two is the parties can sell the house and split the proceeds equally. The parties can split the costs of upkeep until the sale, or they can decide that one party lives there and makes all payments until the sale. Or, one spouse could move out and then combine all living expenses, with each paying half of those total expenses or each paying their prorated share, according to each party’s income. Option three is one party stays in the house for a predetermined amount of time, such as one to two years, until a refinance must be undertaken.

There are a number of creative ways to determine the division; it is limited only by imagination and the ability to cooperate. The end goal is to split the proceeds 50-50 and not make the process more difficult than it needs to be for either party.

If only one spouse’s name is on the deed, or if one party owned the house prior to the marriage, it might be considered that spouse’s sole and separate property. This can become a complicated legal issue and you should seek the advice of an attorney if you have any questions.

How do deferred compensation accounts, 401k, and retirement benefits get divided during a divorce?

The court will split these 50/50 if it was all acquired during the marriage. There is no penalty to divide and the money is not removed from the accounts. After the division, each party is subject to IRS rules for prematurely withdrawing the money. One spouse cannot create a tax liability for the other spouse. The money/account should not be withdrawn during the pending divorce.

A Qualified Domestic Relations Order may be required if you are dividing your deferred compensation, 401k, or retirement benefits. If this is the case, a QDRO expert may be necessary to divide these assets. The QDRO expert will require information concerning the date of your marriage and the date of the plan to value, which is usually the date the QDRO expert actually divides the asset. You will need to contact a QDRO expert for this.

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