What is a divorce?

A divorce or a dissolution of marriage is a legal judgment by a court of competent jurisdiction that provides for the separation of a husband and wife, totally dissolving the marriage relationship so that they now are again two single individuals.

While that very simple statement sets out what a divorce technically is, a divorce often has ramifications on many different levels, not only legally, but financially and emotionally as well. Typically, when a divorce is granted by the court, there is an order from the court that provides for a distribution of property from the marriage, an order which decides how premarital property will be divided, and an order providing support for a spouse, if necessary, in the form of either alimony or maintenance.

If children are involved, there is a determination as to what type of custody arrangement would be in the best interest of the children along with decisions concerning visitation of the children between the parties, and the appropriate amount of child support.

How do I get a divorce?

Typically, legal proceedings are initiated in the state and often the county where the party seeking the divorce resides. The length of time an individual needs to reside in a state to establish residency for the purposes of filing for divorce depends on the jurisdiction.
When the appropriate pleadings have been filed with the court to start the process, those pleadings must be properly served upon the other party so that he or she has an opportunity to respond, in writing, to the various allegations that have been raised in the original filing. Typically this response is known as an answer.

Do you have to prove someone is at fault in order to get a divorce?

Years ago, in order to secure a divorce, one of the parties had to prove the other person was "at fault." This was done by proving that the other party was an adulterer, convicted of a felony or infamous crime, was an alcoholic, was guilty of cruel and barbarous treatment of the other partner, was impotent, or failed to provide for the financial needs of the marriage. These "fault" provisions were slowly abandoned by most state legislatures and a "no fault" approach was adopted. In the states that have adopted a "no fault" standard, the ground that is most often relied upon is the ground of "incompatibility."

The philosophy behind this public policy change was that a divorce, with all its different emotional and financial dynamics, was already enough of an emotional roller coaster without requiring one of the parties to prove that the other party was an adulterer, habitual drunk or was guilty of some other "fault." While the majority of jurisdictions have over the past 20 or 30 years adopted a "no fault" approach, there has recently been a movement to make divorce harder to achieve. The hope is to give people a "cooling down" period so that they can make every possible attempt to reconcile and to make a marriage work. Several states are presently considering this type of legislation.