Divorce is the most common way in which married couples split. In fact, someone in the United States gets divorced approximately every 13 seconds. However, it is not as easy as simply deciding one day to get divorced. In most states, divorce is both paperwork heavy, emotionally challenging, and will require a number of steps that must be taken before the divorce can be finalized.
What is a Divorce?
Everyone seems to know what divorce is, but how does the law define divorce?The legal definition of divorce, also referred to as dissolution of marriage, is the legal process by which a marriage is terminated by court order.
There are two general types of divorce proceedings:
- Fault-based, and
A “fault-based” divorce is exactly how it sounds––one party blames the other. Fault-based divorces must typically meet one of the grounds for divorce recognized by the state. These grounds vary from state to state but are generally:
- Lack of cohabitation;
- Extreme cruelty;
- Habitual Drunkenness or drug abuse;
- Gross neglect of spousal duties;
- Imprisonment; and
A “no-fault” divorce is one where one party sues for divorce but does not have to prove that the other party did something wrong. With a no-fault divorce, the grounds for divorcing is typically “irreconcilable differences”. Every state offers a no-fault divorce option, and in some, it is the only option.
Fault-based divorces, on the other hand, offer some advantages, including the ability to waive the waiting period often associated with no-fault divorce, and often entitles the spouse who is not at fault to child custody, alimony, or a greater share of marital assets.
How Do Couples Divorce?
Couples who decide to divorce begin by filing papers with the local branch of the state court that will ultimately approve and order their divorce. An actual trial is usually not necessary as most divorces today are finalized with a divorce agreement instead of a trial.
A divorce agreement is a document drawn up by the parties to the divorce and their respective attorney and which addresses the following issues:
- How the couple’s property, money, and debt will be divided;
- How child custody and visitation will be allocated; and
- The amount of child support and/or spousal support to be paid by one party to the other.
A trial court can be avoided by resolving these issues through informal settlement negotiations during which couples take advantage of increasingly available services like mediation and collaborative divorce.
Once a settlement is finalized by both parties and approved by a judge, the court will then issue a divorce order (or divorce decree) that will legally end the marriage.
What are the Requirements for Divorce?
Although laws differ from state to state, the basic requirements for getting a divorce are typically as follows:
- You must have been a resident of the state in which you are filing for some specified length of time, usually at least six months;
- Your marriage must meet at least one of the states legally recognized grounds for divorce; and in some states,
- A waiting period of legal separation is required before a divorce can be finalized, typically anywhere from 3 months to 1 year, and in some cases, 2 years.
Contact an Experienced Divorce Lawyer
For information on divorce law in the state in which you live or in which you plan to seek a divorce, contact a local divorce lawyer, for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation during which he or she can explain the rules and regulation that govern divorce in that particular state.
Divorce Information By State: