Introduction To Divorce Law

Though divorce law varies by state, this article is a great place to start your research

As its name indicates, divorce law is practiced so that a couple has an opportunity to get a divorce, or legally end their marriage.Divorce law is regulated by each individual state, so when performing research, be sure that the laws you are reviewing actually pertain to you.When seeking representation, keep in mind that even parties who desire to end their marriage amicably cannot share an attorney because to do so would violate attorney/client confidentiality laws.Be certain to find an attorney who will be proactive in helping you retain your rights.Additionally, you should thoroughly review any documents that are filed with the Court on your behalf for accuracy.

Divorces can be contested or uncontested.In uncontested, or "no-fault," divorce cases, couples decide to reach agreements about various issues like child custody and property distribution on their own.In contested divorce cases, couples decide that they are unable to come to an agreement which they view as favorable to both parties, so they request that an objective, third person make decisions on any issues that are in dispute.Parties that seek a contested divorce may also allege that their spouse is "at fault," or has, in some way caused the marriage to dissolve.In all cases, divorces must be reviewed and approved by an agent of the state, which, in most cases, is a judge who has the jurisdiction to hear family law cases.

The first step that you must make after deciding to get a divorce is to live separately from your spouse for a predetermined amount of time.All states require a mandatory separation period for couples seeking a divorce.This waiting period varies by state, and ranges from sixty days to one or more years.During this separation period, parties are not free to marry anyone else even though they are living apart from their spouse.They must wait until the divorce has been legally resolved until they are free to marry again.

Grounds for Divorce

In your Petition for Divorce (sometimes referred to as "Dissolution of Marriage" or other terms), you may be required to set out reasons, or grounds, for seeking to dissolve your marriage. The grounds on which a couple can file for divorce vary by state.Here are some common reasons that couples indicate when filing for divorce:

- Irreconcilable Differences

"Irreconcilable differences" is often listed as the reason for dissolving a marriage in divorces that are uncontested. Couples who indicate irreconcilable differences as the reason for divorce most often desire to end their marriage amicably.By listing this as grounds for a divorce, couples acknowledge that neither party is solely at fault, or has caused the divorce.

- Adultery- When a party in a divorce names adultery as a reason for divorce, they are alleging that their spouse has destroyed the sanctity of their marriage by having an affair.

- Incarceration- In most states, a person can seek a divorce if his/her spouse has been incarcerated for a felony and/or must spend a substantial amount of time in jail

- Abandonment- A person can seek a divorce on the of grounds of abandonment if their spouse leaves the family home. Abandonment can occur even if a party knows where his/her spouse is currently residing.

- Abuse- In most states, Courts recognize abuse as a legitimate reason for seeking a divorce.Parties who fear that their spouse may physically harm them or there children can request that the court order a restraining party against their offender.

Incidental Matters in Divorce

There are many incidental matters that parties must consider when filing for divorce, below are a few:

Child Custody

The Court has the ultimate responsibility of deciding which parent, if any, a child of divorce should reside with.If the divorce is uncontested, the Court will most often adhere to the wishes of the parties as long as the decision lies in the best interest of the child.In a contested divorce, parties must set forth legitimate arguments to the Court stating the benefits their child will receive if placed with them or the harm that the child will face if he/she is placed with the other parent.


The Court will determine how much support, including alimony and child support, if any, should be paid.The amount of child support that the Court awards will be based on the income of the non-custodial parent. When determining whether alimony should be awarded, the court will take into consideration

Separation of Assets and Debts

Laws regarding how parties must divide their assets and debts vary by state.Some states have community property laws in place which dictate that a couple must divide debts and assets attained during the course of the marriage totally equally.Parties do retain sole rights to some assets, including those that they acquired before the marriage, as well as certain gifts and inheritance. Additionally, parties in community property states are also solely obligated to pay for certain debts, like student loans, that they sustained after marrying.

In states that do not have a community property laws in place, assets and debts are distributed according to "equitable dissolution," or as fairly as possible.Couples must go through a process of negotiation and determine how to justly divide their property and debts.This process can be difficult and lengthy and may require a great deal of mediation before an agreement is made.

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