Divorce can be a difficult process. Not only are there emotionally difficult decisions to be made, but divorce law can be confusing and there are numerous financial factors that must be carefully considered. Division of property and custody allocation can become complicated and even couples who plan an amicable dissolution of marriage may find themselves overwhelmed by the details.
What are the grounds for divorce?
The laws vary from state to state – in many states, you must have been a state resident for at least six months prior to filing a petition. In general, however, divorce is permitted on several basic grounds:
- The marriage is irretrievably broken
- Mental incapacity of one spouse for at least 3 years preceding the filing
- Spousal abuse and/or mental cruelty
Different states have different rules regarding separation – some require a period of separation, while others do not recognize it as a legal status. However, in most states there are legal provisions to help spouses with maintenance and child support during a separation period.
Divorce law encompasses many complex issues, including:
- Child custody;
- Child support;
- Equitable distribution;
- Spousal support;
- Custody or support modifications;
- Child support enforcements;
- Prenuptial or postnuptial agreements.
Division of assets is often one of the most contested issues in a divorce, and while laws vary by state, the courts generally consider the following factors:
- Each spouse’s contribution to the marriage – including care and education of children and homemaker services;
- Each spouse’s contribution to marital income and financial liabilities
- Any intentional destruction or waste of marital assets following the filing of the divorce petition
- Each spouse’s economic situation;
- Length of the marriage;
- Any contributions of one spouse to the career or education of the other – as well as any career or educational interruptions undertaken by one spouse;
- Certain assets such as business interests which may be more practical and desirable to be retained by only one spouse;
- Retaining the marital home as a residence for any dependent children
The sudden stress imposed by the dissolution of a marriage can be devastating, and many people are caught by surprise when a spouse closes bank accounts, opens new credit accounts, or refuses to honor custody agreements. People who consult an attorney before making any hasty decisions are often better prepared to deal with the financial ramifications of a divorce or separation.
The divorce process is complex, and multiple factors must be evaluated and considered in order for couples or a judge to reach agreement. An attorney can help clients with such issues as alimony, child custody, child support, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, mediation, and protection from spousal abuse. Divorce is a challenging step regardless of the circumstances, but the right legal advocate can make a difference and enable clients to successfully move forward with their lives.