Although there are a few federal laws that apply to divorce, mostly in the realm of child support requirements, divorce in the United States is largely regulated on the state level. This means that getting divorced in one state may be a somewhat different process--and involve different legal requirements--than getting divorced in another state. This is very important to consider if you are thinking of getting a divorce. You need to make sure you know what laws apply in your particular state. Here are three things, in particular, that you should find out about your state's specific divorce laws before filing.
Does Your State Offer At-Fault Divorces?
There are two basic types of divorces. You can have an at-fault divorce in which one spouse claims, and must demonstrate, that the other spouse has done something to ruin the marriage. Or, you can have a no-fault divorce in which the two of you simply agree not to be together anymore; there's no burden to prove any wrongdoing. All states now grant no-fault divorces. (This was not always the case.) However, some states now grant only no-fault divorces while others grant both at-fault and no-fault divorces.
You'll want to talk to an attorney or do some research to figure out which types of divorces your state offers. Pursuing a no-fault divorce is usually easier, but if your state offers at-fault divorce and your spouse has wronged you in some way, filing for an at-fault divorce may be the best way to receive adequate alimony or a fair portion of the shared property.
Is Yours a Community Property State?
There are also differences in the ways various states recognize property owned and acquired during the marriage. So-called "community property" states consider that everything obtained by either or both parties during the marriage is shared property. Equitable distribution states, on the other hand, allow for solely-owned property during the marriage.
This really comes into play when the time comes to divide your assets. If, during your marriage, you purchased a car with your own cash and only your name is on the title, a judge in an equitable distribution state may consider that your sole property that you get to keep. On the other hand, in a community property state, that car would be considered shared property that needs to be divided--even though only your name is officially on the title.
When Is Alimony Awarded and Revoked?
In some states, a spouse with the lower earning potential is almost always awarded alimony. In other states, it is very difficult to prove you need alimony payments, and they are only granted under very specific circumstances.
Here are a few things you should find out about alimony in your state before seeking a divorce:
- Is 50% alimony automatically awarded, or does the judge vary the percentage based on need?
- How long is alimony mandated for? In some states, payments must only be made for a few years. In other states, alimony is essentially permanent.
- What are the grounds for terminating alimony? In some states, the payer can stop making payments if the spouse receiving the payments moves in with another partner.
- Is alimony at all determined by gender? In some states, only men can be demanded to make alimony payments regardless of the woman's income.
Obviously your concerns about alimony will differ based on whether you are the prime earner in the marriage or the one who has been earning less. Talk to an attorney to find out your rights when it comes to alimony. This may impact the type of divorce you seek (no-fault versus at-fault) and there are many differences across state lines. For more information, contact companies like Gomez May LLP.