Did you know that almost 50% of US marriages will end in divorce or separation? The stats aren’t precise, but it’s safe to say that if you’re reading this, you’re not alone. In fact, it’s estimated that every third person reading this will either be divorced or be giving divorce a serious thought.
When you consider a legal separation or a divorce you’ll need to think about where you are going to live after, and with whom. You’ll need to consider finances alongside child custody and ownership of sentimental items and pets. It’s an emotional time and support from friends and family should be welcomed.
Here, at About Divorce, we aim to provide you with information on the Legal, Financial and Emotional aspects of divorce and separation. We’ll also occasionally share blog posts that are more light-hearted to lift your mood.
Local divorce laws
Whilst there are often similarities in divorce laws throughout the US, there are also significant differences from state-to state. For a more detailed overview of the laws local to you, click the state you live in (or that of your spouse) below.
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At About Divorce, we provide you with comprehensive yet simple to understand information around divorce laws and where to find divorce lawyers and family attorneys throughout the US. You’ll also find guides on key legal terminology, timeframes and costs to help you better understand the options and make decisions about your divorce or separation. Below are some popular articles to get you started.
What are some of the things I should consider prior to divorce?
There are many things to consider about divorce, prior to approaching an attorney. Lack of knowledge around divorce issues can contribute to increased emotional trauma and financial set backs during the process. However knowledge of these issues will give you the power to face them and cope better.
Before you file for a divorce, and perhaps before you even speak to an attorney, here are 6 things you should give consideration to;
1. Evaluate your current finances
Divorce leads to the division of liabilities and assets. Prepare yourself for this by making a list of all the liabilities and assets you and your spouse have, both joint and individual. Keep the originals with their copies at a safe place. Your divorce lawyer will require these to assess your divorce case. Prepare to cancel checks, collect copies of credit card and bank statements, insurances and 401k ( your retirement plan statement ). This will not only give you an idea what your financial status looks like, it will also prove as evidence in some cases for example if your spouse has been over-spending or spending on substances such as drugs and alcohol.
2. Evaluate your (future) financial needs
Take time to valuate your financial position as a single person. Are you ready to take any additional responsibility your spouse may have had? Can you afford to run the house on your own? If you cannot, how likely is your spouse going to be supportive when it comes to contributing to these expenses? You should discuss your financial situation with your divorce attorney. They will look at your assets and liabilities, assess them and then prepare your divorce case based on their findings and your requests. Whilst attorney firms are well-versed in this sort of thing, you should also consult a financial advisor and possibly even an accountant for a more accurate financial status. This will give you peace of mind and is of more importance if financial arrangements are likely to get messy.
3. Consider what is joint and what is separate property
Joint property is known as community property. It is the property that is jointly owned by the couple and the property that was acquired during marriage. After the divorce, divorce laws state that only community property is divided. Separate property is the property of each of the spouses that was acquired prior to marriage, however in many cases the values of these properties will have risen during the time the couple were married. If this is the case then a different set of laws will be applicable which are more complex, but allow for wealth that has accumulated over this time. Laws vary from state to state and a professional divorce attorney is recommended for complex cases and to make you aware of your rights.
4. Prepare yourself to be placed under scrutiny
When you go through divorce proceedings, it can feel like you are a felon. Your personal behavior, how you behave with your children and spouse will be observed. Your expenditures may be watched, who you interact with, your social media accounts. Everything. And if it’s not the courts doing it, you can be fairly sure your ex-husband or wife will be keeping a close eye. How you behave can impact upon the court’s decision in your divorce case. So keep it clean.
5. Decide if you need a family violence protective order
It is important to get a family violence protective order by the court if you or your family have been subject to any violence. Speak to your divorce attorney asap to arrange this. If you are the spouse onto which such an order has been issued against you, this is a serious matter which will effect any claims for child custody and visitation rights, such as the requirement for third-party supervision. If you feel this order is unfounded speak to your divorce lawyer immediately to contest it.
6. Understand the time taken for local divorce proceedings
If you are one of the fortunate couples who manage to have a simple divorce case, this can take as little as a few months in some states. However, things are rarely that simple. If yours is a contested divorce case, whereby a court needs to make the decisions it can take a lot longer, from 6 months to multiple years in some cases. It’s always best to have some counseling and see what you can agree amicably with your spouse as this will make life easier for both of you and the process a lot more economical and faster, reducing emotional burden on everyone involved.
Furthermore, there can be considerable differences in how long it takes to obtain a divorce to be from state-to-state, even if you both agree on the terms. This is primarily due to the difference in “waiting periods” imposed by each state. Taking everything into consideration, the shortest timeframe in which a divorce can be completed AFTER the paper work has been filed generally varies from around 1 month to 6 months – with most states being closer to the 6-month mark (click here for links to individual state laws and information). There are a few exceptions, Nevada being one of them. Yes, you can get a quickie marriage in Las Vegas or a (fairly) quickie divorce. Nevada has some of the most relaxed marriage laws, with residency requirements for divorce being just 6 weeks (many states are 12 months) and no “waiting period”; Theoretically, your divorce in Nevada could be through within a week!
That is a very brief overview of some of the high-level considerations you’ll need to think about prior and throughout the divorce process.