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Everyone who gets married hopes it will last forever, but the sad truth is that many marriages don't. Divorce is the way Americans legally end their marriages, and while every state now allows for no-fault divorce, some states still offer the option of a “fault” based dissolution. Additionally, if the couple owns things together, spouses may divide their marital property. Alimony or spousal support may be ordered; while child custody, child support, and visitation also may be at issue. During a divorce, each spouse should be represented by their own divorce lawyer.
Fault vs. No-Fault Divorces
To get a divorce in the past, states required people to prove fault (such as adultery, cruelty, or desertion). In order to give people the ability to divorce for their own reasons, all states now offer some form of the no-fault divorce model, although some states still give you a choice between filing for a no-fault divorce or assigning “blame” to your spouse.
How a court will divide marital property depends on whether the couple lives in a community property or an equitable distribution state. In community property states, all property that the couple acquired during the marriage is considered to be the joint property of the couple (with some exceptions) and will be divided evenly between them after divorce. In equitable distribution states, judges consider a number of factors to decide upon a fair division between the spouses. This division may not necessarily be 50/50.
Property that each spouse owned before the marriage is considered to be their own and usually won't be divided by the court. Other types of separate property, like inheritances given to only one spouse, gifts, and personal injury judgment awards, are generally not considered community property. Divorce law attorneys often help people determine which of their properties are exempt from division.
Child Custody, Child Support, and Visitation
Some of the most emotional aspects of divorce law involve child custody and visitation. Regarding child custody, legal custody involves the right to make important decisions for the child while physical custody determines who the child lives with. The parent who's not the primary physical custodian will usually be granted visitation with their child. That parent may also be required to pay child support to the custodial parent in an amount set by the court.
Alimony or Spousal Support
Alimony or spousal support may be mandated by the court as part of the final divorce order. This type of support is often ordered when one spouse makes a lot more money than the other. It may be granted for a limited period of time, or it may be ordered indefinitely. When determining whether to award alimony, judges often consider things like whether one of the parties gave up a career to stay home and care for the couple's children.
Ending Your Marriage? Get a Free Review from a Divorce Law Attorney First
Choosing to get divorced is a serious decision with considerable consequences, which is why many people look into divorce alternatives first. Whether you've decided on divorce or are considering your options, speak to an attorney who can guide you through the process, protect your rights and interests, and help an already difficult situation go as smoothly as possible. To get started, receive a free evaluation from an experienced attorney familiar with the divorce laws in your state.