FAQs

1. What is no-fault divorce?

Traditionally, the only way to get a divorce was to prove that your spouse had done something that was officially recognized as a justification for divorce. In other words, your spouse had to be at fault in breaking up the marriage. The most common reasons were adultery, spouse abuse, being sentenced to prison for a felony, and insanity. This made it difficult to get a divorce, and a lot of time, effort, and money was spent proving that the other party was at fault. All states and the District of Columbia have passed no-fault divorce laws to allow a divorce simply because at least one of the parties no longer wishes to be married.

2. What is an uncontested divorce?

An uncontested divorce is one in which there is no opposition to what is requested in the complaint or petition, or in which both parties agree to the divorce and the terms of the settlement of all issues (property and debt division, alimony, and child custody and support). A case where there is full agreement and participation is sometimes called a consent divorce.

3. What are the procedures for a divorce?

How to file for divorce is a process begun by filing a document with the court that is called a Complaint or a Petition, depending upon the state in which you live. Some states call the procedure a divorce, and some call it a dissolution of marriage. A copy of the Complaint is served on (or officially delivered to) your spouse, usually by the sheriff’s office or process server. This may not be necessary in some cases, where you and your spouse are in agreement. Your spouse will be given a certain number of days to respond to the Complaint. How the case proceeds from there will depend upon how your spouse responds. You and your spouse may reach an agreement, your spouse may file a response (either agreeing to what you’ve requested in the Complaint or contesting it), or may not reply at all. Other documents may also need to be filed, mostly commonly financial statements. Things can become quite complicated in a contested case, with numerous documents being filed, and one or more formal court hearings.

4. How much does it cost to get divorced?

There are both fixed costs and variable divorce costs. The fixed costs are filing fees paid to the court, and fees paid to have legal papers served on your spouse. These costs vary from state to state, but typically are in the range of $200 to $500. Variable costs include fees for document preparation and legal representation by an attorney. The attorney’s fees can vary immensely, depending upon the complexity of the case, and the degree to which any issues are contested. Extra costs may also come into play if the court orders mediation of disputed issues, or if it becomes necessary to hire a financial analyst due to complex property issues.

5. How long does it take to get a divorce?

There are several factors that may affect the amount of time needed to get a divorce. Some of these are legal requirements, which vary by state.

Residency requirements. This is the length of time one or both parties must be a resident of the state. Residency requirements range from no time at all to one year.
Separation requirements. In many states, you and your spouse must be living separately for a certain length of time before you may obtain a divorce. Separation requirements range from none at all to three years.

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