Family Law

The D Word Part 2: An Overview of Divorce

No other word creates more angst within the legal system than the angst caused by the “D” word. Yes, we are talking about divorce, the legal process that can irrevocably tear families apart and cause riffs to develop that last a lifetime.

Diane Bennett experienced the chaos caused by divorce first hand in 2004. She alleged her husband at the time hit her repeatedly in response to a heated argument. “I thought I had a cut and dry case; so cut and dry I mistakenly believed the divorce proceedings would be short and sweet. But I was wrong.”

There is rarely anything short and sweet about a divorce case. Outside of criminal charges, no other facet of law requires the services of an attorney more than a divorce case.

How to Divorce 101

The decision to divorce often involves painstaking contemplation that considers the pros and cons of making a divorce decision. After you decide to divorce, you must follow state law that dictates the how and where to file for divorce. The first step involves contacting a family law attorney to help you file the right divorce documents, within the correct jurisdiction. You file an initial document referred to as the divorce petition or divorce complaint. Typically you file the initial document with a state court located in the county or district branch of your state circuit court. Some states include a family court division that operates under circuit court jurisdiction.

Legal Requirements

You must meet the residency requirements of the state where you file a divorce petition. This is an important element of filing for divorce, since many divorces follow separations that involve the relocation of one or both spouses to another state. Military personnel file divorce petitions at the base where they are currently stationed. Divorce law typically includes legal language that protects active military personnel from lawsuits.

Fault vs. No Fault

A growing number of states have changed from fault to no fault divorce states. The reason for going no fault is twofold. First, no fault states distribute assets evenly among the spouses to prevent acrimonious court proceedings. Second, no fault states clear divorce cases much quicker from legal dockets. You need to determine whether you live in a no fault state or a state that allows you to choose between fault and no fault divorce cases. If you and your spouse do not have any children and own few assets, you might be able to file a divorce petition that gets you a summary divorce.

How to Serve Divorce Papers

After you have file a divorce petition with the correct court, the next step in the divorce process requires you to serve divorce papers on your spouse. You should consider recruiting a professional server who has experience dealing with the emotional roller coaster ride caused by the issuance of divorce papers. Never under any circumstances consider serving divorce papers yourself.

The Option of Mediation

Many couples go to mediation to settle divorce cases amicably. In addition, many states require mediation to help both spouses reach a settlement and parenting plan everyone can live with. Even if you live in a state that does not mandate mediation, you should consider what is called a “Collaborative” divorce that involves some form of an alternative dispute resolution process.

When Things Go South

If the divorce goes to trial, you will need to present evidence that places the blame for the divorce on your spouse. You can use witness testimonies, as well as evidence collected by a private investigator. This means you need to hire an accomplished attorney who specializes in family law. An attorney represents your best interests during a divorce trial and helps you appeal a divorce ruling.

Contact a licensed attorney today to schedule an initial free consultation.

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