Navigating the Waters
Depending on what generation you are in, divorce is either a last resort or something to prepare for when beginning to consider marriage. With the creation of no-fault divorce laws in the 1970’s, getting a divorce has been made simpler from a legal perspective for both men and women. This does not take the human impact into consideration, but the legal reality is that if your spouse files for a divorce you have no choice but to prepare yourself the best you can for the contentious battle ahead.
No-fault divorce is simply the legal concept that you are not required to have formal legal grounds to get a divorce. Though most people have heard of no-fault divorce, in many cases people are not prepared to deal with the laws of their own state. There are only 17 states that have “pure” no-fault divorce laws:
So if you live on the East Coast of the United States you may find the reality of no-fault divorce a bit trickier than you originally thought. Some states such as Hawaii require both parties to live separately for 24 months before filing. The bottom line is that you will need some type of legal counseling or representation regardless of whether you are the person seeking the divorce or not.
The two most important considerations for any two people involved in a divorce are property and children. The general rule is: the less you have of either, the less complicated (and cheaper) the divorce process will be. Even in amicable and agreed divorces there are often money issues such as child support and alimony that start off friendly but turn into a contentious battle.
When it comes to money and property, many Millennials and Generation X-ers do not consider marriage without a pre-nuptial agreement – or pre-nup. This is a legal document that specifically states the division of property and money should the marriage end in divorce. Having a pre-nup in place drastically simplifies the property issue.
As for children, the ages of the children are of primary consideration. Issues such as child support and visitation rights lead the way for some of the most drawn out and difficult legal battles. If you have children, do not expect the divorce process to go smoothly because the one thing to keep in mind is that the final decision by the judge will be with the non-custodial parent until the children reach the legal age of 18.
The Short List, The legal process you can expect during a divorce is :
Waiting period (if required in your state)
Temporary Divorce Order (at the judge’s discretion)
Discovery –here is where the court gathers information from both parties
Awarding the divorce – also known as the divorce decree
Though the list is short and simple, there are stages such as the discovery process where facts can be argued and challenged, that can be drawn out and protracted. That is why the best first step when confronted with a divorce is to get competent legal counsel and know the road you will be walking on.