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Getting Divorced: Steps to Dissolving a Marriage


Dissolving a marriage is never easy, but understanding the process can certainly help you to feel more informed. The actual degree of complexity of divorce will usually depend upon how much money and property is involved as well as whether there are children from the marriage.

First, it should be understood that there are two types of divorces. They are fault and no-fault. Prior to the 1970s most divorces were granted on a fault basis, with one spouse being found at fault of the failure of the marriage due to adultery, etc. The other spouse was then awarded the divorce on those grounds. The no-fault divorce movement grew out of couples who wished to dissolve the marriage but not place blame on one another. Under a no-fault divorce, there is no need to find fault on the part of either spouse. Through this type of divorce, the couple may agree to divorce by mutual consent. In situations where a fault divorce is granted, the issues involve may be considered in regards to child support, child custody and spousal support.

Grounds for a divorce may also be contested or uncontested. When a divorce is uncontested, both spouses agree to the divorce as well as all other issues such as child custody and property division. In this situation a property settlement agreement is reached prior to the final divorce degree. If both spouses agree on all issues, it may not even be necessary to have a lawyer prepare the settlement agreement. In the event there is some disagreement, mediation may be necessary to settle those matters.

When there is significant disagreement regarding certain issues, such as property division or child custody, each spouse typically hires a lawyer to represent them regarding the settlement negotiation. When the issues cannot be decided out of court, then the divorce is said to be contested. Contested divorces typically take much longer than uncontested divorces. A process called discovery begins the contested divorce process. The discovery process involves either mandatory or voluntary delivery of information that is needed to prepare the case of each spouse. The type of information that is typically involved includes tax and financial records.

Most judges will commonly order both spouses as well as their lawyers to meet on several occasions prior to trail in order to reach an out of court agreement. If this is not possible, then a trial will take place. Both sides have a chance to testify as well as respond to allegations, present witnesses and cross-examine the witnesses of the other side. Expert witnesses may also be called upon, including child psychologists, property appraisers, etc. At the conclusion of the trial, the judge will make a final decision regarding division of property, spousal support, child custody and child support.

The division of property will typically be based on several factors. Courts are required to adhere to state law regarding the division of property between spouses. In states which are community property states, the court must divide marital property equally between spouses. Marital property includes all property as well as income that is acquired during the marriage. Property that was brought into the marriage by one or the other spouse is not included. In addition, any property that was given as a gift to one spouse only is not divided. Community property states include Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin.

All courts are required to take the best interest of the child into consideration when determining child custody. A variety of factors may apply, including the child’s wishes, who has been the primary caretaker of the child in the past, the quality of the parent-child relationship, the physical and mental health of the parent and the child, etc.

Generally, the parent that does not receive custody will be ordered to pay a child support amount that is set by the court. A standard schedule is usually utilized for determining the amount of child support.

Do-it-yourself divorces can be utilized in instances where the divorce is uncontested and there are no serious issues such as property division or child custody to consider. These types of divorces are usually utilized when the couple has not been married very long and there is no property or children involved.

It should be considered that in some states a specified period of legal separation must be met before the court will issue a decree of divorce. This amount of time ranges from state to state and may be anywhere from six months up to three years.

Understanding the requirements for divorce as it applies to your specific situation and state can make the process of getting divorced a bit easier to endure. It is always a good idea to seek out professional legal advice from an attorney specializing in divorce and family law when you are considering a divorce or a legal separation.

david beart runs the professors house. this family website covers divorce, family, cooking and other household issues.

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Listed: September 24, 2008 4:08 pm