Let’s be honest: Even if you’re both okay with the relationship being over, going through a divorce is hard. Luckily, in many cases, the divorcing spouses choose to settle things peacefully and with dignity, without dragging each other to divorce court. Everyone’s ready (hopefully) to start the next chapter of life.
However, if the divorcing spouses can’t reach an agreement (especially when they have different opinions on important topics, like child custody or property division) they will have to go to court. I know, I know, going to a divorce hearing is stressful, but being prepared can help the tough process go more smoothly for everyone involved.
Keep reading to learn all you need before going to divorce court.
From Filing for Divorce to Finalizing the Judgment
The process of divorce begins by completing the appropriate paperwork and filing a complaint or legal petition (formal written request). By filing this document, you ask the court to officially end your marriage.
The filing spouse must include the following information:
- a statement which informs the court that at least one spouse meets the state’s residency requirements for divorce;
- a legal reason or grounds for the divorce;
- any other statutory information that your state requires.
As divorce laws vary by state, the amount of time required to dissolve a marriage can differ from state to state.
Finally, if a spouse is not happy with the outcome, he or she has the right to appeal. If the appeal is granted, the matter goes back to court.
Residency Requirements for Divorce
Before you file your petition for divorce, make sure you meet your state’s residency requirements. Otherwise, the court won’t accept the case.
In plain English, you may only file for divorce in a state where you reside. Each state sets its own laws regarding residency. Nearly all states require at least one spouse to reside in the state for a period of time, six months or a year, before filing for divorce in the state.
Grounds for Divorce
As already mentioned, part of the petition for divorce is the ‘‘grounds for divorce’’. Yes, the reason(s) you want a divorce should be specified as part of the divorce process. Grounds basically fall into two categories: fault-based and no-fault.
Fault-based grounds are those that require you to prove that your spouse did something wrong, which caused the divorce (including adultery, cruelty, mental illness, criminal conviction, etc.).
No-fault divorce allows spouses to file a divorce petition without listing a specific reason or placing blame on a spouse.
Distribution of Property
When a marriage ends in divorce, it usually involves tough decisions and difficult discussions, including those concerning the division of property. Some couples work together to decide how to split up their property, debts, and assets, while others hire attorneys or even go to court and ask a judge to divide the marital property (property owned jointly by the couple).
Courts divide property through one of two ways: community property or equitable distribution.
In some states, all marital property is classified as either community or separate. Community property is generally divided equally between the spouses. Needless to say, anything that you owned before the marriage is the non-marital property and will stay with you.
In all other states, assets and earnings accumulated during marriages are divided equitably (fairly) but not necessarily equally. This means that the court will divide the marital property between you and your spouse based on the facts of your case. Again, if something is confirmed as ‘‘separate property,’’ it won’t be divided between you and your spouse during the divorce. It will remain exclusively yours.
Child Custody and Parenting Time
Getting divorced isn’t a tragedy. Neither has anybody died of divorce. What matters most when you split up is your kids’ well-being. That’s why one of the most significant and difficult parts of the divorce is establishing child custody.
Child custody is decided according to the best interests of the child/children. The main options are “joint custody” and “sole custody” with rights of visitation.
Joint custody allows both parents to have a say in the most important decisions in a child’s life, such as education, religious upbringing, etc. ‘‘Sole legal custody” means only one parent is the decision-maker. In this scenario, however, the non-custodial parent usually gets regular visitation rights.
Hire a Qualified Lawyer with AppearMe Before Going to Divorce Court
If you are going through a divorce, hiring a good divorce lawyer should be your first step. An experienced divorce lawyer will evaluate your specific case, advise you at every stage of the divorce process, help minimize the lengthy court process, and ensure a successful outcome.
We highly recommend you to hire a divorce lawyer with the help of AppearMe for Consumers. AppearMe uses new and innovative ways to help you find lawyers in your geographic area, and in your field of need.
The web application is super simple to use.
- Visit our website
- Submit a request
- Receive proposals from pre-vetted lawyers in your area
- Choose the candidate who best fits your needs.
Searching for the perfect lawyer has never been easier and faster.