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Divorce

Like marriage, divorce in the United States is under the jurisdiction of state governments, not the federal government. Divorce or "dissolution of marriage" is a legal process in which a judge or other authority dissolves the bonds of matrimony existing between two persons, thus restoring them to the status of being single and permitting them to marry other individuals. The legal process for divorce may also involve issues of spousal support, child custody, child support, distribution of property and division of debt, though these matters are usually only ancillary or consequential to the dissolution of the marriage. In all but one state, and even in that state in most cases, a divorce must be certified by a court of law to become effective. The terms of the divorce are usually determined by the court, though they may take into account prenuptial or postnuptial agreements, or simply ratify terms that the spouses may have agreed to privately. In the absence of agreement, a contested divorce may be stressful to the spouses and lead to expensive litigation. Less adversarial approaches to divorce settlements include mediation and collaborative divorce, which negotiate mutually acceptable resolution to conflicts.
Divorce in the U.S. is governed by state rather than federal law. The laws of the state(s) of residence at the time of divorce govern, not those of the location where the couple was married. All states recognize divorces granted by any other state. All states impose a minimum time of residence to file for a divorce, Nevada and Idaho currently being the shortest at 6 weeks. All states allow no-fault divorce on grounds such as irreconcilable differences, irremediable breakdown, and loss of affection. Some states mandate a separation period before no-fault divorce. Mississippi, South Dakota and Tennessee are the only states that require mutual consent for no-fault divorce. The rest of the states permit unilateral no-fault divorce. Since the mid-1990s, a few states have enacted covenant marriage laws, which allow couples to voluntarily make a divorce more difficult for themselves to obtain than usual. For example, couples who choose to undertake a covenant marriage may be required to undergo counseling before a divorce can be granted, or to submit their conflicts to mediation. In states lacking such provisions, some couples sign contracts undertaking the same obligations.

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