There are about 2,132,853 marriages in the United States, as per the latest statistics. With divorce rates hitting a record low in the past year, marriages in the US are lasting longer. Still, 14.9 of every 1,000 marriages ended in divorce in 2019.
The end of a marriage can be a frustrating experience for all parties involved. There’s so much to be taken care of, including new living arrangements, decisions regarding money and property, parenting schedules, and so on.
With all the emotions involved, it’s difficult to understand the different divorce laws and processes you need to. Understanding the relevant laws about divorce can help you make sound decisions and get through the divorce more easily.
If you’re looking for information about divorce law, you’ve come to the right place. In this comprehensive guide, we give you all the information you need to help you get through your divorce more smoothly.
Read on to learn more.
Options for Divorce Available for Couples
In general, there are two major types of divorce. The first type is commonly referred to as divorce from bed and board. This type of divorce is available for couples who want to separate legally but, for some reason, don’t want to end their marriage formally.
The second type of divorce is called absolute divorce. This type of divorce is much more frequent than the first. As the name suggests, an absolute divorce dissolves the marriage and gives each spouse a clean break.
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A judge may issue an absolute divorce in one of several methods, including:
Most states allow an expedited divorce procedure for couples who’ve been married for a relatively short time, usually less than five years. Such couples will typically have no children, not much property, and significantly less joint debts.
This type of divorce requires both spouses to agree to the procedure and file court documents jointly.
As you’d expect, summary divorce is fairly straightforward. Not much paperwork is required, and you can get through it without an attorney.
Of all divorce processes, an uncontested divorce is the most stress-free. The couple settles all their differences up-front. They agree on issues such as child support, custody and parenting time, alimony, and division of marital property beforehand.
Once you make sure that you and your spouse are on the same page regarding the essential issues, you incorporate all terms in a written separation agreement. Courts typically fast-track uncontested divorce processes. Some states don’t even require you to appear in court, as long as you’ve filed an affidavit with the court clerk.
A contested divorce is where the spouses do not agree on one or more issues regarding the divorce. In this case, the judge will decide these issues on your behalf.
A contested divorce can be expensive, time-consuming, and stressful. The process of settlement negotiations, exchanging relevant information, and court hearings can take years, and the attorney fees can add up.
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If you file for divorce, but your spouse fails to respond, you may want to consider a default divorce. This usually happens when the spouse can’t be traced.
If you’ve followed the rules and regulations set forth by the court, a judge may grant you the divorce, even if your spouse didn’t participate in the divorce process.
Fault and No-Fault Divorce
Initially, US couples who wanted to divorce had to demonstrate that one party was guilty of wrongdoing. Cruelty and adultery were two of the commonest grounds for divorce. This is what is referred to as fault divorce.
Currently, most US states provide no-fault divorce statutes. That means you don’t need to prove that you or your spouse is at fault for your marriage failing. You can merely state that the two of you have irreconcilable differences or that your relationship has suffered an irreparable breakdown.
Before you file for divorce, you may want to try alternative dispute resolution (ADR). The idea is to try to resolve your differences regarding the divorce without involving the court.
A common ADR approach is divorce mediation, where a professional mediator sits with the couple and helps them resolve their issues related to the divorce. This mediator remains neutral throughout the process. Their job isn’t to make the decision for either of you but to provide guidance and help you two communicate until you reach an agreement.
Important Divorce Laws to Keep in Mind
As you’re going to find out, the divorce process can be a complex one involving several laws related to the marriage dissolution. Among these laws are:
If you and your spouse had children while married, the issue of child custody will inevitably arise during the divorce. Under the common statutory provision, both parents will have joint guardianship over the children, and your parental rights are equal. In other words, each of you has an equal right to the custody of your children when you separate.
The court will determine which home to place your children in. This decision is based on the best interests of the child. Some of the things the judge will consider are:
- The wishes of the parents
- The wishes of the child
- The child’s relationship with each parent, their siblings, and other people who may impact their best interests
- The comfort of the child in the home, community, and school
- The physical and mental health of those involves
The parent who gets the custody will control decisions relating to the health care, education, and religious upbringing of the child.
Marital Property Laws
Another major issue in divorce pertains to the division of property and debts. Many couples make decisions regarding property division themselves or with the help of a mediator. If they can’t reach an agreement regarding the issue, they’ll need to submit the dispute to the court for a solution.
In some states, the property is divided using the principle of equitable distribution. If you live in such a state, it helps to hire a lawyer who is knowledgeable about how equitable distribution works to help you.
Understanding Divorce Laws Can Make a Big Difference
A divorce can be a long and complicated process for many people. The best way to prepare for this difficult time is by having a good understanding of the divorce laws applicable to your specific case.
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