Filing for Divorce : Part One
Getting a divorce is emotionally stressful and it can also be costly and lengthy. While many divorcing couples simply want to get the whole thing over with quickly, this is not always possible. The divorce laws are complicated and vary from state-to-state. (You can find the divorce laws for all 50 states at the Cornell University Law School website. The stages of a divorce are basically the same no matter where you live, but to get the best results and to protect your rights, it is a good idea to hire a lawyer.
Time and Cost of a Divorce
Many factors determine the cost and timeframe of a divorce. Much of this is contingent on how soon you and your spouse can reach an agreement. The faster you can do this, the faster the divorce can be finalized and the less expensive it will be. There are several stages to a divorce and not every couple goes through each stage. If you and your spouse cannot resolve your disputes you could end up with a trial in divorce court. Some experts estimate a divorce can cost from $1,500 to $20,000.
Depending on the state you live in and how quickly matters are resolved, the divorce can happen in a few months to several months. But if the parties can’t agree on anything, a divorce can take up to a year or more. If a trial is involved then the divorce can last up to two years.
Issues to be Resolved
Each marriage is different, but there are a few areas that most divorcing couples must discuss. As agreements are reached on each issue, your divorce continues to move forward. Issues usually in dispute are as follows:
— Alimony/Maintenance/Spousal Support
— Division of Property and Assets
— Division and Repayment of Debts
— Child Custody and Visitation Rights
— Child Support
— Pet Custody
— Division of Retirement or Pension Fund
— Premarital agreements
— Division of a Family Business
Residency and Jurisdiction
In many states you can only file for divorce in that state if you have lived there for a specific period of time, usually 6 months to 1 year. A handful of states don’t have residency requirements. If you and your spouse have homes in different states, the issue of jurisdiction (or the location for the divorce) becomes more complicated. One main advantage of being the first to file for divorce is that you and your lawyer can choose the jurisdiction that best fits your needs. Community property states are one such factor.
Grounds (or Reasons) for Divorce
There are no-fault or uncontested divorces in which no one is to blame. All states now allow for no-fault divorces. But you can still file for divorce based on grounds in some states. While doing so could prolong the divorce, it is still an option. States have various grounds for divorce such as adultery, imprisonment, physical and/or emotional abuse, abandonment, drug or alcohol abuse or insanity.