While a divorce does mean the end of a romantic relationship, the process is more involved than a breakup. Because a marriage includes involvement from the state in the initial signing of marriage documents, it must also include the state when those documents are deemed unwanted.
Divorce is a challenging situation, emotionally and mentally. When it comes to the legal aspect of divorce, knowing what to expect can help prepare you for the process and understand the proper steps to be followed to allow the divorce to flow as smoothly as possible.
The legal process of divorce
Getting legal help or advice for divorce is best done by reaching out to a divorce lawyer or a therapist with the credentials needed to help families through the divorce process. Not only will your lawyer be able to guide you through the legal issues, but your therapist will be able to help you and your children navigate the emotional aspects as well.
In the meantime, you can prepare as best you can by gaining an understanding of the way legal issues are handled in a divorce and the process it takes for a divorce to become finalized. Additionally, it is important to remember that each state has different laws regarding divorce. Understanding these laws can make a big difference in the speed and smoothness of the divorce process.
Most states have laws regarding the length of time a couple must be separated before they officially divorce. Separation means the couple has declared they are no longer interested in marriage, cannot reconcile differences, etc. and have chosen to separate.
States acknowledge two types of separation:
Informally separated, where the couple lives apart
Legally separated, where the couple already has a formally written agreement about finances, support and custody
To keep your divorce from delay, knowing what your state’s laws are regarding period requirements for separation (if there are any) is crucial.
Each state also has its ownresidency requirements – that is, rules for the length of time in which a couple needs to have lived in a certain state before they can file for divorce there. For example, couples who live in the same state often do not need certain lengths of residency; other states will allow divorce in their state if that’s where the couple was married.
Additionally, if states do require lengths of time for residency, the guidelines vary, with some places requiring only 45 days and others demanding up to 365 or more.
Grounds for divorce
Grounds for divorce are the legally acceptable reasons for which a couple is seeking to end their marriage. Courts recognize two different grounds for divorce: no-fault-based divorces and fault-based divorces.
A no-fault-based divorce includes those in which the couple cannot reconcile their differences and therefore the marriage has broken down, but no one specifically was the cause of any wrongdoing towards the other (like abuse or having an affair).
A fault-based divorce is one in which a spouse seeks the divorce due to incidents of abuse, cruelty, unfaithfulness, etc. While these tend to take more time and money, they may be beneficial for individuals to have on file the documentation of said wrongdoing.
Filing for divorce
Filing for divorce is the legal step where the court receives the paperwork stating you and your spouse wish to separate. This should be done once the appropriate requirements of separation are met to keep the process flowing smoothly.
If you have children, their information, including names, ages and location
Your hopes for the outcome of the divorce, including division of property and child custody
Once you have formally filed for divorce, the official process begins.
Serving and responding
Copies of the divorce paperwork must be served on your spouse, meaning they must receive the notice of the divorce filing so they can properly respond. Depending on their response, you may face a default, or uncontested, divorce, where your spouse does not respond and the marriage is dissolved.
Most of the time, however, your spouse will respond to the divorce filing, meaning “your spouse will submit an “answer” to your initial petition for divorce. Your spouse might agree with you in the answer or may disagree with your assertions. Your spouse can also file a counter-complaint and introduce new allegations or information for the court to consider.”
This is where the extended period of waiting for the finalization to occur begins as the court processes the new information and ensures they are making the right decisions in the best interests of the children, should they be a determining factor.
Help for divorce
When facing a divorce, you will need support in various aspects, including legally and emotionally. Understanding the terms and language of divorce, the requirements and legal aspects, as well as the navigation of the court system can be overwhelming.
On top of that, the mental and emotional toll a divorce can take requires optimal guidance and help.
To get in touch with someone who can provide guidance in these areas, contact Mazzitti & Sullivan EAP by calling (800) 543-5080 or contact us online to learn more.