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Everyone who gets married hopes it will last forever, but the sad truth is that many marriages just don't. Divorce is the process that Americans use to end their marriages, and while every state now allows for no-fault divorce, and it is by far the more popular option, states still offer the option of a fault-based dissolution.
In addition to just ending the marriage, a divorce also means resolving issues related to property division, alimony, child custody, and child support.
In the past, if you wanted to divorce, states required people to prove fault (such as adultery, cruelty, or desertion). In order to give people the ability to divorce for their own reasons, all states now offer some form of no-fault divorce model. The means even if the divorce is caused by adultery or some other act, you do not have to prove it. In many states, you can simply state that you and your spouse had “irreconcilable differences” as the reason for the divorce.
States, however, still give you a choice between filing for a no-fault divorce or assigning “blame” to your spouse.
How a court will divide marital property depends on whether you live in a community property or an equitable distribution state. In community property states, all property that you and your spouse acquired during the marriage is joint property (with some exceptions) and will be divided evenly after divorce. In equitable distribution states, judges consider a number of factors to decide upon a fair division. This division may not necessarily be 50/50.
Property that you and your spouse each owned before the marriage is considered to be your own and usually won't be divided by the court. Other types of separate property, like inheritances given to only one spouse, gifts, and personal injury judgment awards, are generally not considered marital property. This process is not as simple as it sounds, and often requires the work of your divorce attorney and accountants.
Some of the most emotional aspects of divorce law involve child custody and visitation. Legal custody involves the right to make important decisions for the child, while physical custody determines who the child lives with. The parent who's not the primary physical custodian will usually receive visitation time with their child. That parent may also be required to pay child support to the custodial parent in an amount set by the court.
Alimony or spousal support may be mandated by the court as part of the final divorce order. This type of support is often ordered when one spouse makes a lot more money than the other. It may be granted for a limited period of time, or it may be ordered indefinitely. When determining whether to award alimony, judges often consider things like whether one of the parties gave up a career to stay home and care for the couple's children.
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified divorce lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact an attorney in your area from our directory to discuss your specific legal situation.