Taking you through the divorce or marriage annulment process
Everyone wants to believe that their marriage will last forever, but the fact is, something like 40 percent of all first marriages in the United States end in divorce, and the percentages are even higher for second and third marriages. If you feel that it may be time to end your marriage, make sure you know the process and are prepared for the physical, emotional and financial toll it can take.
The divorce process differs from state to state throughout the U.S., and the laws governing a divorce are those of the state of residence at the time of divorce, not the state in which the couple was married. There are, however, minimum residency requirements in each state, meaning that a couple must live there for a certain amount of time before they can apply for divorce. As with marriage residency laws, Las Vegas divorce laws (that is, Nevada divorce laws) require the least residency time—6 weeks.
In general, couples must be separated legally and physically for a certain period of time (usually one year) prior to the issuance of a divorce decree. Most states also allow for no-fault divorce, meaning that a person can file based on "irreconcilable differences" or "loss of affection" rather than only for a specific cause like adultery or abuse.
Because divorce law varies from state and state and because there are so many issues that may need addressing (provisions for children, division of property, etc.), it is generally in both parties' best interest to have a divorce attorney, even in the case of an uncontested divorce. Not all divorce lawyers are the sharks TV makes them out to be—it is possible to have a quiet, dignified divorce without a lot of friction. A lawyer can simply help ensure that the process is legal and as fair as possible to both parties.
Of course, if the divorce is contentious, a divorce lawyer is absolutely necessary. But even in cases where both parties are agreeing to the divorce, it can be worth spending the money on a lawyer who can help explain the process, negotiate the terms and file the legal paperwork.
As with most things legal, divorce involves a lot of paperwork, especially if it is complicated or contentious.
Like the laws, divorce papers vary from state to state. Generally, however, they include a petition for divorce, a financial affidavit, custody and child support arrangements and forms pertaining to spousal support and health insurance coverage. Some states also require certain forms to be signed by a third party, usually a friend of one or both parties.
When a divorce is finalized, a divorce decree is issued outlining the agreed upon rights and obligations of both parties.
Divorce papers and proceedings are usually a matter of public record.
Many people think that annulment is just a fancier word for divorce, but in fact, it is an entirely separate legal procedure. The process for annulling a marriage is similar to that for getting a divorce, but whereas a divorce simply undoes the marriage contract, an annulment makes it as though the marriage never existed.
As with divorce, the rules governing annulment vary from state to state, but in all cases, the criteria for granting an annulment are much stricter than they are for divorce. Petitioners cannot simply get an annulment because they no longer wish to be married; they must be able to prove that the marriage was not valid in the first place. Common grounds for an annulment include:
- One or both of the parties was underage at the time of marriage
- The parties are close blood relatives
- The marriage was not consummated
- One or both of the parties were already legally married at the time of marriage
- One or both parties were not of sound mind (whether due to mental illness or drunkenness)
- One of the parties was under duress, threat of violence, or physical force at the time of marriage
- One or both of the parties committed fraud by concealing impotence, criminal history, or some other major fact
If you would like an annulment and think you may qualify, consult with an attorney to find out more about the process in your state.