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Alimony, also called spousal support or maintenance is a payment that one spouse has to make to the other after getting a divorce. In most marital arrangements, one partner earns less than the other or is dependent on the other entirely for financial resources.

If a couple chooses to get a divorce, the dependent partner without their (former) partner’s financial assistance, will have to face major financial crisis or lifestyle degradation. To prevent this from happening, state laws have made a provision for the financially dependent partners, called alimony.

Financially dependent partner is entitled to receive support from their former partner either till they get back on their feet and become independent, or in some cases, forever.

Learn more about spousal support and alimony in this section.

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For children, divorce can be an extremely stressful and sad time. At any age, children may feel vulnerable, uncertain or angry at the prospect of this big change. Both parents need to ensure that the entire process is less painful for your children and that their emotional needs are taken care of. It is important to provide stability in your home and attend to your children’s needs with a positive attitude.

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When you are married, chances are good that during the marriage, you and your spouse will obtain items, property, assets, and other things (also commonly referred to as community property). Furthermore, debt is another shared aspect of the relationship. Due to this (and regardless of the amount), when you get divorced, those assets are likely going to be subject to being distributed between the two parties.

Division of property in a divorce

In a perfect world, at this point in the process, things are much easier when the parties can agree to how they will divide their assets as well as how debt will be handled. For instance, if you purchased a home while married, maybe one of spouses will wish to remain in the house as opposed to selling. Part of the property settlement agreement may be tied to the remaining spouse paying the other spouse for their half of the value of the home.

If you are unable to come to an agreement about division of assets and debts, the courts will be forced to step in to make the decision. The court may choose to approach the distribution of assets from a physical division perspective or from one where they award a percentage of the total value of the property to each party. Ultimately, when this happens (and depending upon your state laws), the courts will divide the property based upon the principles of community property or equitable distribution.

If you are subject to community property laws, all property that you and your spouse have will be divided into community and separate property. In general, separate property is that property that you had coming into the marriage (or possibly subject to a prenuptial agreement or inheritance). In this scenario, the community property is divided equally between the spouses.

If you are subject to equitable distribution, it is important to understand that equitable is not necessarily equal…it is meant to be a matter of what the court determines is fair. In this scenario, courts may even order one party to use their separate property to reach an equitable settlement for both parties.

Property division process

Property division in a divorce is accomplished through a contested process in which each party makes their case to a judge that property should be divided in a manner. In this case, the court would attempt to create an equitable division of property. Equitable distribution does not mean ‘equal’ rather it means that the court distributes marital property based on consideration of a number of factors to arrive at a fair division of property. Courts will employ a formula that takes into consideration each party’s financial status, their age, the length of the marriage and their ability to support themselves and will arrive at a division of property that attempts to reach a fair balance.  

In other situations, the couple may reach an agreement by submitting to the court a settlement agreement which outlines how property will be divided. Under these circumstances, the settlement would outline how the division would occur such as how and when certain assets should be liquidated and transferred to the respective party. Once the judgment approves the order, it becomes binding on each party.   

Strategies to divide property during divorce

Strategies to divide property during a divorce vary depending on the type of assets the couple hold and their willingness to reach an agreement on how property should be split. When attempting to reach an agreement, it is important to consider both the short-term and long-term impact of the agreement. For example, the parties may feel the agreement is fair in the short-term, but will they still hold the same opinion in the future, particularly if the couple have children who as they grow older may have different needs or if either party anticipates undergoing a drastic change in earning capacity in the future. In this sense, it is important to divide property in a way that accounts for all contingencies and is sustainable over the long term.      

It is important to note: Property division is not limited to division of  physical property, it extends to retirement funds, insurances, inheritances and even debts and liabilities. The properties and possessions of a to-be-divorce couple is divided according to the state law where they belong.

In the end, division of property can be a high tension, anxiety ridden, and emotional experience. Finding a way to settle the division of property out of court is certainly the preferred route, but when you hit a snag, having a qualified family attorney in your corner can increase the chances of ensuring that the property is divided correctly.

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Making the decision to divorce is the most important step in any divorce. It is serious and means that you are ready to end your marriage. This decision can often be clear, while other times not. Although the legal process can be stopped, engaging it can lead to a myriad of charged emotions, broken trust, and other problems. Thus, it is very important that you don’t start the divorce process until you are absolutely sure that you want to end your marriage.

A divorce is initiated through what is commonly referred to as a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. Irreconcilable differences are the most commonly used grounds for divorce because it negates the need to air anyone’s dirty laundry in open court. The “fault” grounds for divorce often include adultery, bigamy, physical cruelty, mental cruelty, desertion, drug addiction, conviction of a felony and impotence.

Step 1: File a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.

The Petition for Dissolution of Marriage represents the formal request to the court for a divorce and outlines your position on issues such as custody of children, debts, and property, so your spouse can respond to these issues.

Step 2: File and Serve Your Documents

One your documents are prepared, bring the original signed copy of your Petition and Summons to the court clerk’s office at your local courthouse. At this point, you will pay the required filing fees, and the clerk will set up a case file. Once you receive the official file stamped documents back from the court clerk will take the Summons and Petition for a process server to be served on your spouse.

Step 3: Wait for Your Spouse to Respond:

Once served with the Petition and Summons, your spouse, will have 30 days to respond with a written document outlining their position on the case. If your spouse fails to file a response after 30 days have passed, they may be considered to be in default. If the court decides that a response will not be filed, it may issue a final ruling on the issues raised in your Petition.

Step 5: Discovery

Discovery involves the formal exchange of information between the parties. In this portion of the case, information collected will be used to examine the merits of the other party’s objections to any of the issues raised in the Petition. Further, discovery can be used to determine your spouse’s ability to pay maintenance and support and to establish the value of the marital estate.

Step 6: Trial

If a settlement cannot be reached a divorce case may require a trial whereby evidence is presented in court and testimony is taken from the parties and other witnesses on the issues being contested. At the conclusion of the trial, a final divorce judgment will be entered providing a resolution to all issues raised in the Petition and your spouse’s response. At this time, the couple is no longer married in the eyes of the law and any other obligations regarding finances or children become legally binding.

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Also called “judicial separation”, legal separation is a process by which a married couple may formalize a de facto separation legally. Granted in the form of a court order, the couple remain legally married during the process.

Legal separation is different from separation as it is a legally recognized status of your marriage. Thus, it requires filing documents with and appearing in court (much like the process of divorce). It is also important to note that a legal separation is viewed as an independent action and is not considered to be the first step in the divorce process.

A married couple is no longer able to cohabitate due to the breakdown in the marital relationship. Under these circumstances, the couple choose to live separately. Legal separation represents an in- between area in the law in which a couple or those in a domestic partnership is not living together as married couples or domestic partners do, but are not divorced or have not dissolved their domestic partnership yet.

Since a legal separation does not end a marriage or domestic partnership, a legally separated couple cannot remarry or enter into a partnership with someone else. Rather a legal separation acts as a middle ground between divorce or the dissolution of a domestic partnership.

The process of legally separating

The process is somewhat similar to that of the divorce process in that the couple either requests the court to decide the terms of the legal separation, such as how assets will be divided or how child rearing and support responsibilities will be carried out.

In some cases, the couple will be able to agree on their rights and responsibilities during the separation and present the court with an agreement for approval. Regardless, if either the terms of separation are contested or uncontested, any issues decided or approved by the court will remain in effect until either the court approves a modification of terms or the couple divorces. At which time the final judgment of divorce would take precedence over the terms of the separation.

Grounds for a legal separation

In California, much like other states, a party or parties seeking legal separation must provide a legally recognized reason for the separation. Generally, legal separation may be requested based on ‘irreconcilable differences’, which have caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage or a incurable insanity of one spouse. Just as in the case of divorce, California is a “no-fault” state, in that the court need not find that one of the parties was at fault for the the breakdown of the marriage leading to the separation. Rather, the court will only look into the question of whether the marriage is past saving as opposed to who caused the underlying problems that harmed the marital relationship.

An experienced divorce attorney can assist you when contemplating a legal separation. Further, an experienced legal separation attorney can explain the consequences of legal separation and what rights and obligations separating spouses have.

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Going through a divorce in court can be a very frustrating and costly process.  So it should not be surprising that a number of alternative processes have been become common.  Two of the most common are arbitration and mediation.  In both situations the couple will hire a third party that will help resolve their differences. Both methods can offer a relief from the nastiness of a courtroom brawl, but each is very different.  

Arbitration is like an informal court

Arbitration is a popular alternative to litigation that in many ways looks the same.  Each spouse is typically represented by an attorney and an impartial observer will decide anything that cannot be settled between the parties.  An arbitration is conducted much like a trial, but with less of the formal rules.  The arbitrator will generally be presented with all the issues that are preventing the parties from settling the divorce.  Then, the arbitrator will hear testimony and review evidence so he or she can make decisions.  The complex rules of evidence that apply in a courtroom are usually not relevant in an arbitration, and that can make it easier for spouses to get all the facts on the record.  

Couples will typically only move to litigation after negotiations have have reached a stalemate or impasse.  The good thing is an arbitrator can work around the parties’ schedule in a way a judge never would.  Getting a contested divorce before a judge can take months or even years.  Couples in arbitration can also have their arbitration in a variety of settings, such as a private office or in a home.  Little to no private information ever needs to be presented to a court.  The informal procedures can also drastically reduce the cost of hiring lawyers or experts like accountants.  Arbitrators’ decisions often cannot be appealed.  

Mediation guides the parties to an agreement

Mediation is a process where the two spouses will work with a neutral mediator who will help the spouses agree on the conditions of their divorce.  At the onset, the spouses will generally meet with the mediator who will explain the process.  After that, the mediator will conduct a series of working sessions, including some one-on-one sessions and some with both spouses, in order to pinpoint disagreements and move to common ground.  Lawyers will typically not attend these sessions and the mediator must keep everything confidential.  Mediators do not choose winners and losers the way a judge or arbitrator would.  A mediated settlement can only be obtained if both parties agree.

Mediation is a process best used by spouses that are still on reasonably good terms.  With open dialog and good-faith efforts, mediation can be quicker and less painful than an arbitration.  The divorcing spouses must be able to communicate with each other and have some level of trust.  If one party is suspected of hiding assets then mediation will probably not work.  Marriages involving abuse or child neglect are probably unsuitable for mediation as well.  Like arbitration, mediation can also be used just to solve some issues.  For example a couple could use a mediator to settle child custody issues but an arbitrator or courtroom trial to settle financial issues.  

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When it comes to legal documents, there are laws that require that parties involved in a legal action follow a clearly defined process to provide the other party with certain documents. This includes such specifics as how documents must be delivered, the timing of delivery, who is permitted to deliver those documents, and what documents and notices must be filed with the court clerk. This process is referred to as Service of Process and the record of the delivery is referred to as Proof of Service.

In general, Service of Process means that the other party must receive copies of documents filed in court by the other party. This is a critical step in the process as not serving the other party or following the appropriate steps means that the court will be unable to make any judgments or permanent orders. Once the party has received the documents as required by law, they have been properly served.

When it comes to serving documents, there are several methods that are acceptable for their delivery. It is important to note that not all methods of service can be used for all documents and processes. Thus, it is important to review state laws related to the documents being served to ensure appropriate service.

Depending upon the documents being served, common methods of acceptable service include:

  1. Personal Service

  2. Service by Mail

  3. Substituted Service

  4. Service by Notice and Acknowledgement of Receipt

  5. Service by Posting

  6. Service by Certified Mail

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In every state, married couples terminate their marriage through the legal process of divorce or ‘dissolution of marriage’ in statutes. has blog pages on State Divorce Laws that encompass a concise summary of the divorce legislation of all states along with the district of Columbia.

We have compiled the data from highly credible sources like statute books and updates, keeping into consideration reliability and validity factors. We ensure that the data is accurate and complete. We have used correct terminology, with certain exceptions.

Please be informed that divorce laws are not static, they are constantly changing with respect to conditions involved. Therefore, before you move forward it is necessary to check legal points that are important for your case, in divorce law book to ensure that the law has not changed. Also, don’t forget to check with your lawyer.

We provide you all the information in the most simplified manner and most-commonly used language. You may find certain texts difficult to comprehend because we have taken the laws directly form statutes and divorce law books.

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A temporary restraining order (TRO) or temporary protective order is a court order signed by a judge. It requires someone to stop harming or stalking you and is ideal for those involved in cases of domestic violence.

To obtain a TRO against someone who is abusing you, it is not necessary to have a domestic violence case pending in court.  In most states, if you are subject to domestic violence, threats of domestic violence, or stalking, you may apply for legal protection.

Ending a marriage is usually a highly charged and emotional process. Sometimes, the action is well planned in advance while other times it may be a last minute, drastic decision. One of the challenges of the period leading up to filing to end the marriage (thus kicking off the legal process) is the inability to control, or even be aware of, actions planned in advance by the moving party, to create an advantage, unbalanced or unfair scenario. For instance, prior to filing, the moving party might:

  • Max out joint credit cards.
  • Stop paying household bills.
  • Change minor children schedules.
  • Withdraw or transfer money from joint accounts to individual accounts.
  • Sell personal property or possessions from the marital home.

Once the action is filed, though, an automatic stay is triggered…thus suspending the parties from engaging certain behaviors, especially ones tied to finances, assets, property and minor children. It is important to note, though, that the automatic stays may be limited and don’t require one spouse to pay bills, support minor children, or even prevent one parent from denying the other parent access to the minor children.

Although the time it takes for the legal process of ending a marriage to finalize varies from state to state, it will generally take at least three or more months of time. During that time, it may be necessary to have temporary orders in place to address such factors as custody, visitation, support, and use of property. These orders are pendent lite orders which means “pending a final decree”.

Temporary orders are generally filed after the petition has been filed and served and are limited to matters the court can undo at a later date if necessary. For some matters, some orders prevent spouses from disposing of or selling assets until the court can address distribution of property and assets. This process is called an injunction or stay.

Temporary orders are designed to remain in effect until the divorce is finalized. Think of it as preserving the status quo until a final decision can be made or the parties are able to come to an agreement on the specific issues.

The following are examples of issues that may be addressed in a temporary order:

  • The amount of child support to be paid
  • If and who will pay spousal support
  • Custody and visitation arrangements
  • The party responsible for providing health insurance
  • Whether a guardian ad litem is needed for the children
  • Which party will be able to live in the marital home
  • Who will pay the mortgage or rent
  • How household items will be split
  • Who will be responsible for credit card payments

In essence, the only way to protect your parental and financial rights is to obtain a temporary order which outlines both party’s responsibilities during the duration of the divorce. This means that you will be required to file a motion for temporary orders and subsequently have to appear a hearing for the court to review the request. These hearings are generally heard within sixty days of filing the motion, so it is important to file the motion as soon as you are permitted (often with the Petition for Divorce). In some extreme situations, a party can request an expedited hearing within a few days of the motion being filed. For instance, if the other party stops paying bills or denies access to the minor children.

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