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An overview of divorce in the United States
In the United States divorce, like marriage, is the province of the state governments, not the federal government. Divorce Laws vary from state to state, but no-fault divorce on the grounds of "irreconcilable differences" is now available in all states. However, in recent years many states, including North Carolina and New York requires a one-year legal and physical separation prior to a formal divorce decree. This legal requirement has led to the creation of a separate, somewhat ambiguous category of relationships - "separated". Once a more informal term used by individuals, it has now become a legal category designating someone who is neither married nor divorced.
Divorce in the U.S. is a matter of state rather than federal law. In recent years, however, more federal legislation has been enacted affecting the rights and responsibilities of divorcing spouses. For example, federal welfare reform mandated the creation of child support guidelines in all 50 states in the 1980s. ERISA includes provisions for the division of qualified retirement accounts between divorcing spouses. The IRS established rules on the deductibility of alimony, and federal bankruptcy laws prohibit discharging in bankruptcy of alimony and child support obligations. COBRA allows a divorced spouse to obtain and maintain Health Insurance. The laws of the state(s) of residence at the time of divorce govern, not those of the location where the couple was married. All states recognize divorces granted by any other state. All states impose a minimum time of residence, Nevada currently being the shortest at 6 weeks.
Prior to the latter decades of the 20th century, a spouse seeking divorce had to show a cause such as cruelty, incurable mental illness, or adultery. Even in such cases, a divorce was barred in cases such as the suing spouse's procurement or connivance (contributing to the fault, such as by arranging for adultery), condonation (forgiving the fault either explicitly or by continuing to cohabit after knowing of it), or recrimination (the suing spouse also being guilty). By the 1960s, however, the use of collusive or deceptive practices to bypass the fault system had become ubiquitous, and there was widespread agreement that something had to change. The no-fault divorce "revolution" began in 1969 in California, and was completed in 1985 (the last to fall was North Dakota and New York is the last holdout). However, New York does impose a mandatory separation period before a divorce can be granted.
Typically, a county court’s family division judges review petitions for dissolution of marriages. The National Association of Women Lawyers was instrumental in convincing the American Bar Association to help create a Family Law section in many state courts, and pushed strongly for No-Fault Divorce Law around 1960. In some states fault grounds remain, but all states except New York now provide other grounds as well, variously termed irreconcilable differences, irremediable breakdown, loss of affection, or similar. For such grounds no fault need be proven and little defense is possible. However, most states require some waiting period, typically a 1 to 2 year separation. Some have argued that the lack of means to contest a no-fault divorce makes a marriage contract the easiest of all contracts to dissolve, and in very recent years some have begun to favor moderate divorce reforms such as requiring mutual consent for no-fault divorce. However, no such laws have been passed as of this writing.
Fault grounds, when available, are sometimes still sought. This may be done where it reduces the waiting period otherwise required, or possibly in hopes of affecting decisions related to a divorce, such as child custody, child support, alimony, and so on. States vary in the admissibility of such evidence for those decisions. In any case, a no-fault divorce can be arranged far more easily, although the terms of the divorce can be and often are contested with respect to child-related matters and finances. Ultimately most cases are settled by the parties before trial.
Mediation is a growing way of resolving divorce issues. It tends to be less adversarial (particularly important for any children), allows the parties greater control and privacy, saves money, and generally achieves similar outcomes to the normal adversarial process. Also, courts will often approve a mediated settlement quickly.
Similar in concept, but with more support than mediation, is Collaborative Law, where both sides are represented by attorneys but commit to negotiating a settlement without engaging in litigation. Because of the additional support of attorneys and expert neutrals (such as financial specialists and coaches), the success rate of a collaborative divorce is very high. In the rare event that the collaborative divorce process ends without the parties reaching a settlement, the collaborative lawyers become disqualified, and are replaced by new counsel. The reasoning is that the collaborative lawyers' sole interest will be to settle the case; and lawyers who specialize in collaborative divorce will often have additional training and skills to assist parties to settle.
Non-court based dispute resolution approaches such as a simple uncontested divorce may reduce the trauma of the divorce for all parties. Some believe that mediation may not be appropriate for all relationships, especially those that included physical or emotional abuse, or an imbalance of power and knowledge about the parties' finances, for example. Collaborative divorce, because of its additional support for parties, is better equipped to handle relationships with a history of abuse.
Hostile litigated or contested divorces, in contrast, are expensive both financially and emotionally, and can tend to poison any future relationship the parents may have, which may be important for future co-parenting. Fault grounds can be unpleasant enough when true, and may sometimes be falsely alleged, as may anything else that an unethical spouse can think of. In the 1990s, heated debate arose over accusations of domestic violence and of child sexual abuse arising in the course of hostile divorces. Some found a rapid increase in such charges and in the percentage of them eventually that were found baseless; others found there to be no such problems. It is unlikely the truth will ever be fully known.
States vary in their rules for division of assets in a divorce. Some states are "community property" states, others are "equitable distribution" states, and others have elements of both. Most "community property" states start with the presumption that community assets will be divided equally, whereas "equitable distribution" states presume fairness may dictate more or less than half of the assets will be awarded to one spouse or the other. Attempt is made to assure the welfare of any minor children generally through their dependency. Thus, the spouse given custody (or the spouse with the greater share of residence time in the case of joint custody), may receive assets to compensate their greater child-care expenses. Commonly, assets acquired before marriage are considered individual, and assets acquired after, marital. Depending on the state, an equitable or equal division of assets is then sought.
Alimony, also known as 'maintenance' or 'spousal support' is still being granted in many cases, especially in longer term marriages. Connecticut, for instance grants alimony in over 25% of cases. Alimony is also likely in cases where a spouse has remedial needs that must be met in order for the spouse to become fully employable, for example that one spouse gave up career opportunities or development in order to devote themselves to the family. Permanent alimony becomes likelier in marriages that exceed 12 years.
A decree of divorce will generally not be granted until all questions regarding child care and child visitations and custody, division of property and assets, and ongoing financial support are resolved. Since the mid 1990s, a few states have enacted covenant marriage laws, which allow couples to voluntarily make a divorce more difficult for themselves to obtain than in the typical no-fault divorce action. For example, couples who choose to undertake a covenant marriage may be required to undergo counseling before a divorce can be granted, or to submit their conflicts to mediation. In states lacking such provisions, some couples sign contracts undertaking the same obligations.
In recent years, a few high-profile court cases have involved children "divorcing" their parents, or being legally declared emancipated minors. Perhaps the best known are those of actor Macaulay Culkin and Olympic gymnast Dominique Moceanu. However, these are not properly "divorce" cases, and different laws apply.
Divorces obtained by US couples in a different country or jurisdiction:
Due to the complex divorce procedures required in many places, especially including many states of the United States, some people seek divorces from other jurisdictions that have easier and quicker processes. Most of these places are commonly referred to negatively as "divorce mills."
There are four main reasons that people look to another jurisdiction for a divorce:
New York does not have a no-fault divorce, such as "irreconcilable differences" as a legal cause for divorce, and fault is required (often with strict legal requirements) or a separation agreement in force for a year, such as New York State, thus requiring one year from the time the legal separation went into effect unless fault can be proven (possible in some cases just by affidavit however, but the other spouse must not contest the charges otherwise an often lengthy contested divorce is required.)
Some jurisdictions have complex and long residency requirements as well as paperwork.
Many jurisdictions take a long time to issue a finalized divorce, anywhere from 3 months to a year or even several in unique circumstances.
Finally, some people are simply out to get around the financial hardship of a divorce, and get a divorce from a jurisdiction that allows fast uncontested divorces that offer little or no spousal support to the defendant.
Divorces granted by other countries are generally recognized by the United States as long as no person's rights were infringed upon. The most notable in this situation is the notion of "due process", which is required by the Constitution of the United States and thus is not flexible. This means that the spouse who is the defendant in the case must be notified of the proceedings and be given a certain time frame to respond to the allegations and state their case. This is only the case in a contested divorce, as in an uncontested divorce both spouses agree to the terms and sign off on the divorce; although in almost any if not all of these jurisdiction only one spouse is required to physically visit the country. While a contested divorce where due process was not observed is likely to be ruled invalid by a court in the United States if challenged, it is not illegal, as matrimonial law is private law and not criminal law, and is valid by default unless or until it is challenged (usually in the state or country of residency of either spouse.)
Thus, getting a contested divorce in another country is not likely to achieve the goals of the spouse requesting it, and is possible to even create a larger problem than before. An uncontested divorce is likely to be upheld in a court of law however, regardless of the general validity of contested divorces from these jurisdictions. While a "quick" contested divorce is likely if challenged to be declared invalid, it is, by case law, not considered bigamy if you remarry as long as the obtainer believed the divorce to be valid.
There are 5 major jurisdictions people look towards for a divorce in another state or country:
- The State of Nevada
- The Dominican Republic
Haiti, Mexico, and The Dominican Republic are fairly similar in this regard. These countries people typically go to get an overnight/long weekend divorce, or to get a quick and relatively painless contested divorce (which are not valid unless due process has been observed.)
Quick Divorce in the Dominican Republic is available to foreigners or Dominican citizens residing abroad, when both spouses agree to file this divorce before Dominican Courts. This procedure is very simple and only requires the attendance of one of the spouses during the hearing which takes usually less than half an hour and you can leave Dominican Republic the same day in the afternoon. It takes ten to fifteen days to obtain a divorce decree.
The parties should sign a settlement agreement revised by an attorney in their jurisdiction in order to confirm it complies with spouses local laws. This document should include spouses complete data, a list of property, or statement of non-property, the statement regarding minor children and support agreement, your desire of divorcing before a Dominican Court and the authorization of one of the spouses to the other to attend to hearing on her/his behalf. The settlement agreement can be drafted by an attorney in your jurisdiction. Both these documents settlement agreement and power) must be signed by the parties before the Dominican Consulate nearest to your jurisdiction. A detailed instruction on legalization is to be provided to you when instructions to proceed are received.
The State of Nevada is commonly used for a few reasons. It only requires a 6-week stay to meet the residency requirements, the lowest in the United States. One easy way to demonstrate that you have met this requirement is by having another resident of Nevada simply sign an affidavit testifying to your residency there. Nevada allows for "irreconcilable differences" as a cause for divorce, the importance of which are mentioned above. Also, it has an extensive and straightforward system for marriage annulment, and attracts people who would prefer an annulment (which declares the marriage wasn't valid in the first place) than a divorce. One major reason this attracts people is it allows for an easy bypassing of the mandatory 50/50 split in community property states, most notably the adjoining State of California. Nevada, however, is also a community property state and hence will follow similar rules in a divorce proceeding.
Guam had (and still has some) very attractive reasons for obtaining a divorce there. Guam is a territory of the United States. Because Guam is a territory of the United States, its courts are United States jurisdictional courts and the divorces it issues are valid in all of the states in the US. Prior to January 1, 2006, Guam allowed for an uncontested divorce without either spouse visiting the territory at all. After being charged as a "divorce mill", including by many in its own government, an agreement was made with the lawyers and other lobbyists who did not want to change the law to now require a 7-day stay in Guam (as opposed to the much longer ones proposed) to obtain a divorce. Guam allows for "irreconcilable differences" as a cause for divorce, and Guam is much quicker to award a finalized divorce than many US states, taking a few weeks at most. Before the law was changed, it was a very attractive alternative for many Americans, as it was also quite affordable. However due to its location in Southeast Asia, a trip there would be very expensive and not a viable alternative for most Americans.
In the case of disputed custody, almost all lawyers would strongly advise you stay to the jurisdiction applicable to the dispute, i.e. the country or state of you or your spouse's residence. Even if not disputed, the spouse could later dispute it and potentially invalidate another jurisdiction's ruling.
To view state divorce Laws and FAQ's CLICK HERE
An uncontested divorce is one in which the parties negotiate their own settlement rather than going to trial and letting a judge decide the divorce issues for them. Many people find that an uncontested divorce or no fault divorce will benefit them for several reasons. The divorce process seems to be faster and less expensive. The parties maintain control over their future by reaching their own decisions. The Court does not impose a judgment on them after a trial. The parties are also better able to maintain (or establish) a civil relationship if they are not involved in protracted litigation with all of the positioning and leverage that a contested divorce may invoke. The reduced hostility makes it easier for divorced parents to raise children together.
An Annulment is a way of terminating a marriage that is different from divorce and separation. Annulment is the process of nullifying of a marriage where the court declares that the marriage never took place. In order to annul a marriage, the person seeking the legal action must have sufficient grounds for annulment. What follows is a list of a few of the requirements or grounds for annulment which must be presented to the courts to terminate a marriage in this way. Grounds for annulment typically involve one party's lack of capacity for marriage or some type of fraud. One ground for annulment is if one party had another living husband or wife at the time of marriage. This is valid even if the spouse knew about the other spouse prior to marriage. In some cases a person may have been legally denied the right to remarry, in which case this is sufficient grounds for annulment.
NO. You do not need to hire a lawyer, but it is a good idea to retain one if you and your spouse do not agree on the terms defined in your Petition For Divorce or if your spouse has a lawyer. If you are afraid for your safety or your children's safety, or if you want help with your divorce even if you started the divorce without a lawyer. CLICK HERE to schedule a FREE consultation with a local divorce attorney in your area about your divorce case.
Every divorce case is different, and specific laws vary from state to state, but divorce cases generally follow one of two paths. The parties may reach an agreement, submit that agreement to the court in the form of a marriage settlement agreement for approval, and receive a final divorce decree ending their marriage and setting forth the terms of the divorce or dissolution of marriage they have agreed upon. If the parties can’t reach an agreement, the case will be scheduled for a contested divorce hearing, where a judge will consider evidence like financial records, witness testimony, and expert reports on issues like valuation of property and custody arrangements.
Register with MyDivorceUSA.com for free and get instant access to download online state specific divorce form papers and instructions. Each "do it yourself divorce" forms packet and kit includes easy to understand instructions. The online divorce paperwork and informational packets found in our online uncontested divorce forms library are court approved and updated regularly. You may also want to try these free divorce forms websites. Free-Documents.com - Free-Online-Divorce-Forms.com - Free-Online-Divorce-Papers.com - The-Divorce-Source.com - The-Divorce-Source.net - US-DivorceForms.com
Uncontested Divorce means your spouse has agreed with what you have asked for in your Petition For Divorce or Divorce settlement agreement, or your spouse is not fighting your Petition For Divorce, or your spouse does not answer your Petition For Divorce before your court date.
When you bring your Original Petition For Divorce to the court clerks office for filing, you should expect to pay between $150.00 to $300.00 depending on your state and your county. You will also need to have several forms notarized. A notary public will charge between $5.00 and $10.00 to notarize a document. When children are involved, other additional court expenses may arise if the court orders DNA tests or drug screens. These tests typically cost $125.00 for drug screens and $500.00 for DNA tests. If the court orders you or your spouse to submit to these tests, in most cases they will require you to take them the same day you appear for your initial hearing. Also, most often when children are involved in the divorce, the court will appoint an attorney for the children. This is done to have a neutral opinion on the children's best interests. The typical fee for the Ad Litem attorney is around $500.00. You are expected to pay this fee and any other court ordered expenses promptly to avoid the possibility of putting your case in jeopardy. The court may not allow you to wait until you get paid. Some judges may want to test to see if you have a support group with enough resources to act on behalf of the children in an emergency type situation. This will be the case even if you are able to get the judge to agree to an "inability to pay affidavit." This affidavit is only for paying the court cost for filing your petition and not the judges special orders. You will be required to pay for court ordered drug tests, DNA tests, parenting classes, Ad Litem legal fees, etc. if ordered to do so.
NO. Only lawyers can give you legal advice. No one at this site or at court can tell you what to do about your divorce case. This means you cannot ask us, the judge, court clerks or other court staff for advice about your divorce case. If you do not use a lawyer, make sure that you learn about your rights and follow the steps outlined in your divorce instructions. Getting a divorce can be very complicated. Even if you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, you should try to speak with a lawyer in your area about what to put in your Petition For Divorce. Some lawyers will give you advice as you need it. This is called "unbundled services". Other lawyers are only available if you retain their services.
MyDivorceUSA.com has partnered with TotalAttorneys.com to offer a FREE divorce attorney finder. CLICK HERE to speak with a local divorce attorney in your area to review your divorce case. The service is free and with no obligation.
Grounds for divorce is the term used to describe the reason(s) you are seeking a divorce. You can ask the court to grant you a divorce based on adultery, cruelty, abandonment, your spouse has been convicted of a felony offense and has been incarcerated. You have been living apart, or your spouse has been committed to a mental institution with little or no hope of recovery. These reasons are not all inclusive. If you are uncertain as to what grounds for divorce you wish to claim then you will want to consult with a licensed attorney or your local legal aid office.
You do not need to know where your spouse is in order to get divorced. However you will need to complete a few special divorce forms which will prove to the court that you have done everything within reason to try and locate your spouse.
Every state has laws designed to protect victims of family violence whether they are getting a divorce or not. If you have already filed for a divorce, the court may grant you emergency orders to protect you and the children involved in your divorce. If you have not started the divorce process, you can apply for a protective order if you fear that you or your children are in danger. Your local woman's shelter, county attorney's office, district attorney's office or your local legal aid office can assist you in applying for a protective order. To locate the office nearest you and to obtain information on the various services they can offer please contact the National Hotline For Domestic Violence at 1-800-799-SAFE.
What is a protective order?
It is a court order which protects you from someone who has been violent or has threatened to be violent. The court takes this subject very seriously.
How can a protective order help me?
A protective order can order the person for whom you are seeking protection from:
- Not to hurt or threaten to hurt you, your children or your family.
- Not to contact you or go near you, your children, other family members, your home, where you work, or your children's schools.
- Not to have a gun or a license to carry a gun.
- The police can arrest you or your spouse for violating protection orders.
How much will it cost to file for a protective order?
Usually nothing. There is not usually a fee for filing the application for protection.
How do I ask for a protective order?
Fill out the protective order application forms available from our library. Take two (2) copies of them to the county courthouse in which you or the other person resides. If you have already filed for divorce or you have a custody case pending against the other person, you should file these forms in the same county where you live or the court where you have filed your divorce or custody case.
Health , Life Insurance or Auto Insurance coverage may become an issue for you or your children during or after a divorce. It is now the law that you have health insurance for yourself and your children. You will have to pay a tax staring in 2015 if you do not already have health insurance coverage. If you are concerned about your health or life insurance coverage or you want to see what it will cost you for reasonable insurance coverage, you will want to look into the options available by shopping for insurance coverage. Internet insurance quote engines provide you the ability to compare multiple insurance rates from trusted insurance providers by filling out one short form. This makes the process of finding quality insurance much faster and at the same time providing you with many policies and coverage options to choose from. Most people can get a quality insurance plan for less than they think. It is even possible to save money over the rate you would have to pay for health or life insurance through your employer. Health insurance for yourself or your children could cost as little as $65.00 per month. Quality life insurance coverage may cost even less. Usually around $25.00 per month for $100,000 worth of coverage.
You can find out exactly what quality insurance coverage will cost you by visiting one of the links below.
Informational Purposes Only.
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