Frequently Asked Questions and Answers about Divorce Law

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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers about Divorce Law

During the difficult process of divorce, understanding the laws and procedures of divorce can help guide you through to the other side. The article answers frequently asked questions and provides resources for difficult child custody issues. 

When entering into marital bliss, who plans to get divorced? In fact, it’s the farthest thing from your minds. The union is meant to be forever – through sickness and health, for better or worse, in sickness and in health.  It’s not what you planned for yourself and not what you planned for your family. You’ve lost the future you were counting on and the person you thought would share it with you. Besides a divorce lawyer, good counseling can also help ease your path. This experience will take time to allow a natural, healthy grieving process to unfold. 

In addition, you’ll have legal issues to settle. In reducing stress, it’s helpful to understand basic divorce laws and procedures. Divorce laws vary by state, the individual circumstances of your case, and may affect the results in your case. Below, are answers to seven frequently asked questions about divorce. 

  1. What is a no fault divorce?

Traditionally, the only way to get a divorce was to prove that your spouse had done something that was legally recognized as a justification for divorce. In other words, your spouse had to be at fault in breaking up the marriage. The most common reasons were adultery, spouse abuse, being sentenced to prison for a felony, and insanity. All states and the District of Columbia have passed no-fault divorce laws to allow a divorce simply because at least one of the parties no longer wishes to be married.

  1. What is an uncontested divorce?

An uncontested divorce is one in which there is no opposition to what is requested in the divorce petition, or in which both parties agree to the divorce and the terms of the settlement. A case where there is full agreement and participation is also sometimes referred to as a consent divorce.

  1. What are the procedures for a divorce?

The process begins by filing a document with the court. The document is called a Complaint or a Petition. Some states call the procedure a divorce, and some call it a dissolution of marriage. A copy of the Complaint is served by the sheriff’s office or a process server. However, this may not be necessary in some cases, especially where you and your spouse are in agreement. You and your spouse may reach an agreement, your spouse may file a response, either agreeing or contesting the complaint. Things can become complicated quickly  in a contested case where financial and other records must also be filed. In this case, obtaining a well qualified attorney will benefit both parties. 

  1. How much does it cost to obtain a divorce. 

The fixed costs of divorce include the filing fees paid to the court, and fees paid to have the legal paperwork served. Typically, they are in the range of $200 to $500. The variable costs include fees for your legal representation and the document preparation required and legal representation by an attorney. The attorney’s fees can vary immensely, depending upon the complexity of the case, and the degree to which any issues are contested. Extra costs may also come into play if the court orders mediation or other professional services. 

  1. My state requires me to be separated from my spouse for a long period of time before I can file for divorce. Is there any way to shorten the time?

Some states have separation requirements of 12, 18—or even 24 months. If you don’t want to wait to file, you will need to use one of the fault-based grounds that are allowed in your state.

  1. What if I can’t locate my spouse to serve papers?

If you don’t know the whereabouts of your spouse, you may still get a divorce.  If you still can’t locate your spouse, there is a procedure called service by publication, in which you obtain the court’s permission to publish a notice of the divorce in a newspaper. Once this is done, you may proceed with the divorce case. If there are any criminal issues in your marriage, a criminal defense attorney may also be needed. 

  1. Will I have to go to court?

In most states, even for an uncontested or simplified divorce procedure, you will need to attend some type of hearing before a judge (or other official acting like a judge, such as a hearing officer, referee, magistrate, etc.). This may be in the judge’s office or in a courtroom. For a contested case, at least one rather extensive formal court hearing will be required.

Child Custody

Working out a parenting agreement that covers child custody and visitation can be difficult, especially when there’s animosity between you and the other parent. Whether you’re recently separated and looking to learn the basics of types of custody or you’ve had an open case for years that needs modifications due to life changes, you can find resources here. FindLaw’s Child Custody and Visitation section has information and resources on a wide variety of topics to help you through your child custody case.

For more information about alimony, child custody and child support, including how alimony and child support are determined, and whether your spouse can prevent you from seeing your children, see 9 Divorce FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions About Alimony, Child Custody and Child Support

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