Eligibility for Summary Divorce

Eligibility for Summary Divorce

Not all divorces require a long, drawn-out process involving costly litigation. In fact many couples are able to process their divorce in an expedited fashion due to a number of factors which include having little debt or assets, being married for a short amount of time, not having children or simply agreeing to work out how to dispose of any issues related to finances or other divorce-related matters prior to filing for divorce.  

In cases where it is not likely that issues will be contested, couples may be able to take advantage of an expedited process known as summary divorce or as it is also known as a summary dissolution of marriage. Summary divorce is a streamlined alternative to a traditional divorce whereby the normal procedures a divorcing couple who has contested issues in their divorce would be required to follow are eliminated because the couple does not need to litigate issues that normally would be disputed in a divorce case. The net result of opting for the summary divorce process is that the process is typically faster, involves less paperwork, eliminates the need for costly and time-consuming discovery and requires fewer court appearances.

Most if not all state offers some form of a summary or expedited divorce process. However, a couple planning to use this option should understand that states place some eligibility requirements on a couple who wish to take advantage of this procedure.

While states vary in their eligibility requirements, most jurisdictions require the following:

  • The couple does not have natural or adopted minor children. However, some states will allow a couple to use the summary divorce procedures if they can demonstrate that they have reached an agreement regarding child support payments, custody, and visitation.
  • The couple was married for a short amount of time duration. What is considered an appropriate length depends on the jurisdiction, generally involving a marriage of five years of less.
  • The marital estate does not contain a home with a mortgage or other substantial real property interests.
  • Both spouses waive their right to receive alimony.
  • Both non-marital and marital assets do not exceed a certain threshold. However, some states will allow couples who can provide the court with a marital settlement agreement with regard to financial matters to waive this requirement.
  • The couple does not have substantial joint debts. Similarly, as in the previous point some states will allow a couple who can provide the court with a settlement agreement a waiver to this requirement.

Filing for a summary divorce

Filing for a summary divorce begins with filing a petition. Different states have different petition forms. Petition for summary divorce is a testament that to-be divorced couple signs, declaring the following things:

1. They have no children

2. Their property has been divided according to their marital settlement agreement and they are satisfied with the division

3. None of the parties has been forced to sign the petition

Summary divorce procedures offer a cost effective alternative to the often lengthy and costly standard divorce proceedings, however, each state’s policies on summary divorce vary and should be consulted prior to engaging in planning regarding a divorce.  

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