Chances are, if you’re headed for a divorce, you already know that divorce laws govern the processes and rights concerning property, custody, support and alimony. What you may not know is that those laws governing the procedure and eventual resolution of your divorce are entirely dependant on the state where you live. The dissolution of a marriage is the common factor in all divorces, but most of the laws governing the details of the divorce process are state specific.
No Fault Divorce
Although divorce laws vary widely from state to state, there are two basic types of divorce, “fault divorces” and “no fault” divorces. In an effort to streamline the divorce process, most states have placed “no-fault” divorce laws on the books. Today, 49 states have no-fault divorce laws that do not require either party in the action to prove “fault” in court in order to get a divorce. Today, New York is the only state with “fault” divorce laws. The no-fault laws have proven effective in dealing with divorce cases that are for the most part, undisputed. Some no-fault divorce law states may require the parties to have been separated for a specific length of time or agree to mutually equitable property and custody divisions, but for the most part, no-fault divorces are usually the easiest type of divorce to complete.
A “fault” divorce occurs when one party cites a specific reason of “fault” in court as to why the marriage should be terminated. A fault divorce that is contested in court is often the most expensive type of divorce. Documenting the “faults” of a spouse can be a heated affair when issues like abuse, adultery, child custody and property splits are contested in court.
The property division settlement process is another area of divorce law that takes two different approaches depending on the state where you live. Hopefully, both parties in a divorce can agree to a division of all their assets and debts without a court contest. If they can’t, the divorce laws in the state they reside in will be applied to settle the dispute. The state divorce laws concerning property division come in two types, community property states and equitable property states.
In community property states, the property is usually divided equally with the exception of assets acquired prior to the marriage classified as separate property by the court. Community property states include Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin. All of the remaining states are equitable property states where property is divided according to what the divorce court determines is fair and can include many factors such as the length of the marriage and the earning potential of each spouse at the time of divorce.