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Divorce FAQs

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What Is the Definition of Divorce?

Divorce is the legal termination of a marriage. It results in the cancellation of the marital rights, duties, and responsibilities of each party. Divorce is regulated by state laws rather than federal laws. As such, each state may have very different laws and requirements when it comes to divorce. 

What Does “Grounds for Divorce” Mean?

Some states require a “grounds for divorce” in order for the couple to file for divorce. Grounds for divorce refers to the basic “reason” that the couple is seeking divorce. For example, a common ground for divorce is that of marital unfaithfulness. Some jurisdictions don’t require any grounds for divorce in order for a couple to file.  This is known as “no-fault” divorce filing. 

Are There Any Waiting Periods for Divorce?

Some states enforce waiting periods before a divorce is finalized. For example, some jurisdictions require at least six months to pass from the time that a party was served with divorce papers before the judgment can be issued with finality. This is to check to see whether there is a reasonable likeliness that the party will reconcile.

Also, in some states, at least one party must have lived in the state of filing for a certain period of time (such as six months).

What’s Marital Property?

Marital property is usually defined as any property that the couple accumulated together during the time period in which they were married. This is also known as “shared property” or “community property.” In states that exercise community property rules, the marital property is to be divided equally between the parties upon divorce. 

Property that isn’t considered shared is known as “separate property” (for example, property that was obtained by only one spouse before the marriage). Upon divorce, separate property is retained by the party that owns it. 

What Does “Alimony” or Spousal Support Mean?

In some divorce cases, the judge may order one party to pay alimony or spousal support. These are regular payments made from one ex-partner to the other after the divorce is finalized (they are usually monthly payments). The grounds for divorce are sometimes disregarded when it comes to determining spousal support.

There are many different factors that go into the calculation of alimony, including: whether one party has caused the other party economic harm; the difference in income between the two parties; whether any children are involved; and which party has custody of the child or children.

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

In most divorce cases, the issues of child custody, visitation, and support are major aspects of the proceeding. When making such determinations, it’s only natural that each parent would have their own opinion regarding these important issues. 

However, courts always make such determinations according to the “child’s best interests” standard. This means that all decisions are made with the interests of the child in mind, and not the mere preferences of either parent.

Are There Any Divorce Alternatives?

This depends on the jurisdiction.  In some areas, other options may be available, such as annulment, dissolution, legal separation, or temporary separation. These will be available depending on the family law rules in the area, as well as the needs of each individual party. These alternatives usually require the input of a lawyer, who can help determine which option would be best in each situation.

Should I Hire a Family Lawyer?

Divorce cases make up a large percentage of family law cases each year. You may wish to seek the assistance of a qualified family law attorney in your area. Your attorney can help determine which type of divorce proceeding is best for you, and can advise you of the laws in your area. Also, your lawyer can provide you with sound legal advice and representation during the actual court hearings as well.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 05-05-2017 02:57 PM PDT

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