Divorce information by State
It is important to learn as much as you can about divorce laws before you start making decisions that will affect your future. Navigating the maze of divorce laws can be a bit confusing for the average person though .
There is no federal jurisdiction for divorce in the United States and no law of the land governing divorce that is applied universally across the nation. Instead, each state has complete jurisdiction over all divorces (and marriages) within its boundaries. State and county courts govern the legal issues concerning any aspect of marriage, including divorce, adoption, separation, child support and custody. For the most part, the divorce laws in many states can be quite similar concerning issues of property, custody and alimony. Where the state laws usually differ from each other the most are on points like document filings, child support, residency requirements and divorce grounds.
State-specific divorce laws can vary widely, and are often written in language that is difficult to understand. The requirements and procedures are different in each jurisdiction, and your legal rights will be different in each state as well. State divorce laws are also subject to change over the years, and if a particular legal point is critical to your own case it should probably be checked out by a lawyer. You can research your state’s divorce laws at your library and online too, but an experienced divorce attorney in your own jurisdiction can educate you a bit faster.
There are four basic types of divorce that are most often applied in the United States today and each may have its own requirements and legal consequences according to the presiding state or county jurisdiction. The main types of divorce in use today are fault, no fault, absolute and limited, with some states allowing a mix of the types. In general though, all states are classified as either fault states or no fault states. Today, most states in the U.S. are no fault states.
A fault divorce requires one spouse to show proof of a “fault” in the marriage in order to be granted a divorce. The specific grounds for an at fault finding differ in each state but most will allow adultery, abandonment, alcohol or drug abuse, and similar marital transgressions as sufficient cause for a divorce. Fault divorces that are contested in court can be both lengthy and expensive.
A no fault divorce does not require proof of a fault in the marriage, only that irreconcilable differences have broken the marriage beyond repair and that it is in the best interest of both parties to separate permanently. Most states offer no fault divorces but each may have differing requirements, with some more stringent than others. Some states require specified periods of separation prior to a divorce and other states allow a divorce after one spouse simply declares the marriage is broken. If a couple can settle most of their differences without a court trial contest, the advantages of a no fault divorce are less cost, less time in court and less complication.
Not all states offer absolute or limited divorces. An absolute divorce terminates a marriage by judicial means and returns both spouses to unmarried status. Depending on the jurisdiction, an absolute divorce is granted after evidence of wrongdoing is presented before a judge. In some states no wrong needs to be shown and an absolute divorce is granted if a couple has simply lived apart from each other for a year. Limited divorces are basically legal separations where the marriage is not terminated and the parties remain legally married to each other, but they don’t live together. Upon request, some states allow limited divorces to be converted into absolute divorces after a specified period of time has passed.
Regardless of the state with jurisdiction over the case, every divorce has its own unique issues and needs attention to the laws that govern it. If you want to be thorough, the best way to prepare for the tangle of legal challenges presented by state-specific divorce laws is to obtain the assistance of a qualified divorce attorney in your area.