Going through a divorce can be one of the most stressful and difficult things a person will ever experience. It is not something that anyone plans for or expects to happen. However, researchers have found that typically marriages have about a 50% chance of divorce. Not only is a divorce extremely difficult because of the financial, emotional, and familial elements at play, it is extremely stressful because it is a step into the unknown. For most people getting a divorce, this is something they have never been through before. What is the first step to take when you have arrived at the conclusion that it is time for a divorce? What are the legal grounds for separation? Today, we answer these questions and more as we explore the legalities of divorce.
Almost always, it is advisable to talk to a lawyer before proceeding with any step in the divorce process. Every divorce is unique because of the situation, assets, and relationships involved. For that reason, it is to receive specific, individualized advice regarding your situation.
Filing A Petition
The first step in beginning a formalized divorce process is filing a divorce petition. Typically, this petition is called a “Complaint for the Dissolution of Marriage,” or a “Letter of Complaint.” The exact parameters of this petition will depend on where you live. The filing fee is paid directly to the Clerk of the Court. The cost of the filing fee is different state to state although it typically falls between $200-$300.
If you are unable to afford the filing fee and are able to show financial hardship, you can apply to obtain a fee waiver from the court.
Once you have filed a petition for divorce, it is necessary to give notice to your spouse. You can request that your spouse sign a waiver or you can have them served. If you opt to have them served, most attorneys use private process servers or a sheriff’s department. The cost of such a service ranges between $40-$100 depending on the area. In the case of waivers, there are two options. The first option is a waiver of service. In this instance, your spouse acknowledges that they are aware of the lawsuit while waiving the requirement that they receive formal notice. In the second instance, your spouse can choose to waive the requirement of initial notice as well as the of future notice for any hearings. Both options will save you some money in the divorce process, with the second option saving you significant time in the long run.
Grounds for Divorce
As of 2010, all 50 states allow no-fault divorces. These days, no-fault divorces are the most common form of divorce. However, this was not always the case. Before the institution of no-fault divorces, it was necessary to show that one party was at fault for the breakdown of the marriage.
In many divorces, there are pressing issues that need to be addressed before the divorce is finalized. Examples of such issues may include spousal support, child custody, or child visitation. These issues can be addressed through temporary orders. There are no additional requirements for establishing temporary orders after filing for a dissolution of marriage or divorce.
Primary Divorce Issues
Assets, debt, personal property, and child custody are among the primary issues which are addressed during the divorce proceedings. The specifics of how these decisions and divisions are made change from state to state. Most often, marital debts and property will be divided equally by the court unless there are exceptional circumstances. Non-marital assets, such as inheritance may fall outside of this. Property is typically divided based on the preferences of the couple. Mediators can be helpful in this process. Child custody is the most important issue in most divorces. If possible, it is preferred that the spouses can negotiate on child custody and visitation.
If the spouses cannot come to terms on these primary issues through negotiation or mediation, the divorce may have to move to trial. This can be very expensive and time consuming. If the divorce proceeds to trial, the final decision on all issues is made by a judge.