How to get divorced in the US

Divorce is always a difficult event, even if parties are splitting up amicably. Also, due to the different types of divorces and the basic rules surrounding each, it is easy for non-attorney’s to get confused or to make mistakes- which can cause delay and even in extreme instances a loss of legal rights. It is also important to realize that although divorces from state to state are similar, each state has its own nuances in procedure.

There are two major types of divorces. The first is a contested divorce. A contested divorce means that you and your spouse can’t reach an agreement on how you want things to happen with your financial items such as (your home, bank accounts, retirement benefits, etc) or more personal ones such as issues surrounding children (visitation, custody, child support) or alimony. Most states will require both sides in a contested divorce case to mediate (sit down with an impartial 3rd party that tries to help you work everything or something’s out).

An uncontested divorce occurs when you and your spouse have reached an agreement on everything. Everything is emphasized because not agreeing something as small as who gets the dog has caused many a couple to go from paying a few hundred dollars for an uncontested divorce to thousands of dollars for a contested one. Uncontested divorce participants must execute what is commonly called a settlement agreement. A settlement agreement is a contract between you and your spouse that set out in detail who gets what, when, and how. It is what the courts will refer to if someone forgets to do what they have agreed to do.

Divorces can’t be done in secret. Once you’ve filed for a divorce, your spouse has to be given notice that you intend on divorcing him/her. This can be done by giving him/her spouse a copy of the divorce paperwork and a document that must be signed in front of a notary, swearing that your spouse is aware of your beginning divorce proceedings. Another way is to have the sheriff’s office deliver. A copy of the divorce paperwork either to your spouse’s residence or place of employmentAfter 30 days has passed, you will either travel to court for an uncontested divorce hearing or you will begin the long wearying battle of divorce court. In the mellow world of uncontested divorce hearings, usually you will answer ten questions under oath, and the judge will sign off on your paperwork and voila you are divorced (if you are seeking a return of your unmarried name -it is a good idea to include in the settlement agreement language changing your name)

In any battle you wear something to protect you, in the war of divorce, that something is your attorney. Contested divorce proceedings include events such as discovery, depositions, discovery, temporary hearings to determine child support, alimony, and living arrangements, motion for contempt, all the while the war wages on. Contested divorces can go on until one side or both runs out of money or until the case goes to trial and is settled by a judge. Because it is so easy to get sidetracked in the nuances of the law, a contested divorce is not a feat to be taken lightly or alone- to do so could have severe negative long lasting consequences.

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