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Our divorce lawyers at Jacoby and Meyers are highly skilled and experienced, and can help you get through the process as painlessly as possible. The process is fairly similar in all states, although the reasons for a marriage ending are many and various.
You can start with a legal separation as a test or halfway sort of measure. Or you can immediately file for divorce.
1. Filing the Petition
Filing for divorce usually has to be done in a state where you have lived for a certain minimum time, usually six or twelve months. Some states ask for only one day of residency.
The person filing needs to state why they want to end the marriage. No state requires that any fault be proven, although this option is still available and may have advantage in some cases. Your attorney can advise you on this.
File the petition in the county where you live. A copy has to be served on your spouse by a third party.
2. Property Division
If property issues can't be worked out between the two parties, a court will decide it. Some locations require mediation. A court will use one of two methods: Community Property or Equitable Distribution (also called Common Law and Marital Property Law). Each case is different in property division and some are quite complex.
3. Debt Distribution
How debt distribution is done will depend on what system the state uses. If both spouses have signed on a debt (car loan, mortgage, etc.) they will both be liable for it regardless of any other factors. To make things easier, it's a good idea to close joint accounts and free each other from any joint liabilities.
4. Spousal Support
The states differ on how this is done, although in all states spousal support can be awarded to either wife or husband. Many factors go into this decision, such as the health of each spouse, length of the marriage, and homemaking contributions. Payments can be for a set time only, or in a lump sum, or ongoing.
5. Child Custody and Visitation
This is called the Parenting Plan in some states. It addresses many important issues, such as where the children will live and go to school, how they will receive medical care, and which parent will make decisions. If the parents can't agree, the court will decide.
6. Child Support
Both parents remain responsible for child support. If they can't agree on it, the court will set an arrangement and order them to comply with it. Whatever is arranged, it can be modified later if one parent's or both parents' circumstances change.
These are the main components of a divorce, and when they are all settled the court will grant a final judgment of dissolution. Not until this is signed by the judge is the divorce final. Throughout this process, there are many complex and painful issues and they can be dealt with more quickly and easily if each party has a divorce attorney to speak for them and represent them.
We also offer mediation services for couples who would prefer to resolve their divorce in a more amicable manner.
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