Family Law

What You Need to Know about Divorce

A marriage is based upon a legal contract that joins you and your spouse together in a relationship that is both social and contractual. Marriage entitles each of you to certain rights and requires that you fulfill certain responsibilities. A divorce is a legal proceeding that terminates the marital relationship between you and your spouse. The person filing for divorce is called the "plaintiff" or "petitioner" and the other party is called the "defendant" or "respondent"

Residency Requirements for Divorce

Divorce is a matter of state law. You must be a legal resident of the state in which you file for divorce. Legal residency means that you have lived in the state for a certain amount of time or you did so recently, such as within the previous 90 days. Either party to the divorce can file based upon residency. As long as one person is a resident, it does not matter where the other party lives.

Grounds for Divorce

Most states allow you to file for divorce based on certain grounds. "Grounds" refer to the reasons for the divorce, and these reasons can vary from state to state. Grounds could include adultery or abuse. Some states will grant a divorce if your spouse has been imprisoned for more than one year. Many states also allow divorces based on irreconcilable differences, which means you and your spouse no longer get along in such a way that the marriage can be maintained. This is often called "no-fault" divorce, meaning no blame is assigned to you or your spouse.

Contested or Uncontested Divorce

A divorce generally takes one of two forms. In a "contested" divorce, the parties do not agree on how to resolve the marital issues, or one person wants the divorce and the other does not. Disputed issues can include alimony, child support, child custody, and how to split the marital assets. If the spouses cannot reach an agreement on these matters, contested divorces are decided by a judge. An "uncontested" divorce means both parties agree to the divorce and have reached a mutual agreement on how to resolve the marital issues without the court's help.

Final Decree of Divorce

A divorce cannot be undone. After you and your spouse have gone through the divorce process and all matters have been resolved, the judge will sign the final divorce decree. Once this happens, you and your spouse are legally divorced. If you and your spouse later decide that you want to reconcile, you will have to obtain a new marriage license and remarry in whichever state you choose.

A Divorce Lawyer Can Help

The law surrounding divorce and all of its aspects is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a divorce lawyer.

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Ben J. Raia | May 18, 2015
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