Divorce FAQs

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 What is Divorce Law?

Divorce law is the body of laws which govern the divorce process. It is important to be aware that the rules and requirements for obtaining a divorce may vary by state or jurisdiction.

What is the Definition of Divorce?

A divorce is defined as the legal termination of a marriage. A divorce will result in the cancellation of marital rights, responsibilities, and duties of each party involved.

Divorces are governed by state laws instead of federal laws. Because of this, as noted above, the laws governing divorce may vary widely by state.

What is a Divorce Decree?

Divorce decrees are final rulings from a court that provides a judgment and order which makes the termination of a marriage legally official.

Each individual divorce decree will be unique because it will be based on the facts and circumstances of each case. The main purpose of a divorce decree is to outline the duties and rights of each party in connection with their divorce.

Divorce decrees also outline any instructions or requirements related to division of property and child custody, if applicable. Divorce decrees are very important to divorces because the process of divorce will not be completed until the divorce decree is issued.

Because of this, a party’s status as married or divorce will not be altered or finalized until the decree is issued. If an individual is currently involved in divorce proceedings, it may affect numerous areas of their life, including:

  • Debt;
  • Property possession;
  • Taxes;
  • Employment benefits; and
  • Other legal rights.

Divorce decrees typically addresses issues including:

  • Division of property between the parties;
  • Spousal support or alimony;
  • Issues related to children, if applicable, including:
    • custody;
    • support; and
    • visitation; and
  • The financial obligations of each of the parties.

In addition to those issues noted above, divorce decrees typically contain basic information related to the case, including:

  • The names of the parties;
  • The divorce decree’s effective date; and
  • The case number.

This information may assist an individual who is attempting to locate the records of the divorce at a later date. Typically, these records are kept at the local county records office.

If the records are not available at that location, they may be obtained on a website or with a private company. If an individual has any issues or questions related to locating their divorce records, an attorney can point them in the right direction.

What are the Residency Requirements for Obtaining a Divorce?

Each state requires a spouse who is filing for a divorce to be a resident of the state in which they are filing. The time requirement for establishing residency may vary by state.

In general, however, this residency requirement typically ranges from 6 months to 1 year.

Are There any Other Guidelines for Obtaining a Divorce?

Yes, in addition to the legal requirements of the state, there are also other guidelines for divorce that individuals should follow, including:

  • Being cooperative: The process will go much smoother if the parties seek to cooperate with all the other parties and attorneys involved. A party may be penalized if they purposely attempt to disrupt or delay the process;
  • Being honest: Legal penalties may be applied if a party falsified information during the divorce;
  • Exercising full disclosure: This applies especially to property and assets; and
  • Being prepared: There are numerous deadlines and document requests which must be handled during a divorce.

As previously noted, divorce laws often vary by jurisdiction. An individual may find it helpful to consult their local and state laws or seek the assistance of an attorney.

It is important to note that the cost of a divorce attorney may vary depending upon the location of the divorce proceedings. For example, a lawyer will likely charge less in a small rural town than in a large city.

What Does Grounds for Divorce Mean?

In some states, grounds for divorce are required in order for spouses to file for a divorce. Grounds for divorce simply refers to the basic reason that they are seeking a divorce.

For example, one common ground for divorce is marital unfaithfulness. Many jurisdictions do not require any grounds for divorce.

This is referred to as a no-fault divorce filing. In these types of cases, the filing often states that there are irreconcilable differences between the parties.

Are There Any Waiting Periods for Divorce?

In some states, there is a waiting period before a divorce can be finalized. For example, some states require that the parties wait 6 months from the time that one party was served with the divorce papers prior to a judgment being issued.

This waiting period is done to determine whether or not there is a reasonable likeliness that the parties will reconcile.

What is Marital Property?

Marital property is typically defined as any property which a couple accumulated together during their marriage. It may also be referred to as community property or shared property.

In a state that uses community property rules, the marital property will be divided equally between the parties upon their divorce. Property which is not shared is referred to as separate property.

This includes property which was obtained by one of the spouses prior to the marriage. Upon a divorce, separate property will be retained by the party who owned it.

What Does Alimony or Spousal Support Mean?

In some divorces, a court may order one party to pay alimony or spousal support to the other party. Alimony payments are regular payments which are made from one ex-spouse to the other once their divorce is finalized.

They are typically made in monthly payments. There are numerous factors which are examined when determining the amount of alimony a party will be required to pay, including:

  • Whether one party has caused economic harm to the other party;
  • The difference in the income of the two parties;
  • Whether any children are involved; and
  • Which party is awarded custody of the child or children.

How are Child Custody, Child Visitation, and Child Support Factored?

In the majority of divorce cases, child custody, visitation, and support are major issues in the proceedings. Although the parties will present evidence regarding their side of the issues, the court will make any determinations related to these issues using the child’s best interest standard.

This means that all decisions will be made with the interests of the child in mind and not based upon the preferences of the parents.

Are There Any Divorce Alternatives?

Whether or not there are any alternatives to divorce available will depend upon the jurisdiction. In certain situations, there may be other options available, including:

  • Annulment;
  • Dissolution of the marriage;
  • Legal separation; or
  • Temporary separation.

These alternatives may be available based upon the family law rules in the jurisdiction as well as the needs of the individual parties. These alternatives typically require assistance from an attorney who can help determine which alternative would be best for each situation.

Should I Hire a Lawyer?

There are numerous divorce cases filed each year, each which are uniquely difficult for the parties involved. It may be helpful to seek the assistance of a divorce lawyer in your area.

Your attorney can assist you with determining which type of divorce proceeding is best for you and can advise you of how the laws in your area will apply to your case. Additionally, your lawyer can provide you with sound legal advice and representation during the actual court hearings. They can present evidence on your behalf so you can resolve the situation in the most favorable manner possible.


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