Divorce can be devastating to children and parents alike. Know your rights regarding child support, alimony, and property division. Whether you are already involved in a divorce or anticipate that you may be in the future, please learn how to minimize the impact on your children.
Divorce is an adversarial process, which often means children get caught in the middle. But divorcing couples with children should take the time to understand just how difficult and confusing the divorce process can be for young ones. The following articles focus on the emotional strain often suffered by the children of divorce, including ways to help children cope while the divorce process takes its course. This section also includes links to FindLaw’s Child Support and Child Custody sections.
We’ve all dreamed of finding lifelong love, but not every romance was made to last. Getting a divorce can have serious, long-term effects, both emotionally and legally. There are also strict legal requirements that cover everything from choosing a method of legal separation to selecting where and how to file, to deciding how the property should be divided. The divorce process can be confusing, especially without legal assistance. FindLaw’s Divorce section has information and resources covering a wide variety of divorce issues.« Show Less
This section provides in-depth information including articles on deciding whether to divorce, how the divorce process works, property issues that may arise, spousal support, and post-divorce actions. It also includes links to state-specific divorce laws, divorce forms, and tips on hiring a divorce lawyer.
Reasons for Divorce
While some states still require spouses to provide a reason for the divorce, most states now offer what is known as a “no-fault” divorce. A no-fault divorce allows a court to enter a divorce decree without one party having to legally prove the other party did something wrong in the marriage. Instead, one spouse may simply allege that the marriage has broken down and there’s no reasonable hope it can be preserved, and a divorce can be granted with or without the other spouse’s consent.
Alternatives to Divorce
Depending on your specific circumstances, you may have other options for ending your marriage besides a divorce. Many states offer legal separations, which can allow spouses to make some of the same decisions as a divorce regarding their shared property, child custody, and child support. This option doesn’t legally end the marriage and is generally used when couples want to retain their marriage status for religious or healthcare reasons.
An annulment, on the other hand, has the same legal effect as a divorce but does so by declaring your marriage was never valid in the first place. Reasons for an annulment could be that one spouse was already married, was tricked into the marriage, or was too young at the time to legally marry.
The division of marital property after a divorce will generally depend on whether or not you live in a “community property” state. Community property states consider nearly all property obtained after the marriage as equally owned by both spouses. As a result, the property will generally be equally split after the divorce. Absent community property statutes, it’s typically up to the court to divide marital property between both parties. In either case, courts will normally accept a property division agreement if the spouses can create their own.
Alimony and Spousal Support
Alimony and spousal support are interchangeable terms that refer to monthly payments from one ex-spouse to another following a divorce. These payments can be court-ordered or arranged by the parties involved and are intended to account for the adverse economic effect a divorce can have on one party. All spousal support agreements and amounts are unique, depending on the spouses’ individual incomes and property, their earning capacity, the duration of the marriage, and whether children and child support are involved, among other factors.
Hiring a Divorce Attorney
Attorneys aren’t needed for every divorce, but in many cases, legal assistance can be beneficial, if not crucial. With the complex nature of some divorce procedures and emotions running high, it often helps to have a knowledgeable resource for information and a skilled advocate for negotiations and possible court proceedings.
How to Divorce
You’ve decided you’re ready to get divorced, but what do you need to do next? You need to learn how the process works. While divorce is generallly an adversarial action, pitting spouse against spouse, the following articles and legal resources are tailored toward helping individuals navigate the process as smoothly as possible. This section covers no fault divorces, where to file for divorce, serving and answering a divorce petition, the discovery and general family court process, divorce records and related privacy issues, child support and custody, divorce mediation, and more. You’ve come to the right place for an overview of the divorce process.« Show Less
Legal Requirements for Divorce
You first need to consider where to file for divorce. Typically, this is the county and state where one or both of you live. First, determine if you meet the state’s residency requirements. If you or your spouse are in the military, you may file where currently stationed. However, there are rules to protect active duty servicemembers from civil lawsuits. For more, read the articles on residency, eligibility for divorce, and military divorces here.
Completing and Filing Divorce Petitions
To complete the divorce petition, first consider whether you want a “no-fault” or “fault” divorce. Fault divorces are for things such as abuse or adultery, read more in the articles below. If you don’t have any kids or many assets, you could get a “summary” divorce. With children, there are child custody and child support papers to complete. Find articles explaining the types of divorces, the typical timeline, and even how to change your name in this section.
You can complete divorce forms on your own, at a self-help legal clinic, or with a lawyer. As you don’t want to unnecessarily waive your marital property, spousal support, or other rights, seeking legal advice is a good idea, especially if you have many assets.
Serving Divorce Papers
Once you’ve filed your divorce papers at court, you have to “serve” them on your spouse. Generally, this means another adult must physically give the papers to your spouse. You can use professional servers or save money by having a friend serve the papers for you. If domestic violence is involved, the police in some counties will serve the papers, without charging the usual fee.
Answering a Divorce Petition
Maybe your spouse just served you with dissolution papers. You still have the opportunity to tell the court what you do and don’t want in the divorce. Take care to “answer” within the deadline set by state law. In responding, you can fill out the court forms yourself, at a legal clinic, or with the help of an experienced divorce lawyer. If there are disagreements about what to do with children or property, considering hiring an attorney.
Mediation and Settling a Divorce Case
Many divorces settle with an agreement both parties can live with. Many states require mediation to help reach a property settlement and a parenting plan everyone can follow. Even without a formal program, you and your spouse can use a “collaborative” divorce process from the beginning or can use an “alternative dispute resolution” specialist to help you settle your divorce, read more by clicking the links below.
Trial and Appeals
If your case goes to trial, you’ll need to present evidence, possibly including testimony from witnesses, so the judge can decide a property settlement for you. It will be easier if you’re represented by an attorney at trial. It’s also possible you want to appeal or modify a divorce judgment. This section provides articles on these topics as well.