We've all dreamed of finding lifelong love, but not every romance was made to last. Getting a divorce can have serious, long-term effects, both emotionally and legally. There are also strict legal requirements that cover everything from choosing a method of legal separation, to selecting where and how to file, to deciding how the property should be divided. The divorce process can be confusing, especially without legal assistance.
While some states still require spouses to provide a reason for the divorce, California offers what is known as a "no fault" divorce. A no fault divorce allows a court to enter a divorce decree without one party having to legally prove the other party did something wrong in the marriage. Instead, one spouse may simply allege that the marriage has broken down and there's no reasonable hope it can be preserved, and a divorce can be granted with or without the other spouse's consent.
Depending on your specific circumstances, you may have other options for ending your marriage besides a divorce. Many states offer legal separations, which can allow spouses to make some of the same decisions as a divorce regarding their shared property, child custody, and child support. This option doesn't legally end the marriage and is generally used when couples want to retain their marriage status for religious or health care reasons.
An annulment, on the other hand, has the same legal effect as a divorce, but does so by declaring your marriage was never valid in the first place. Reasons for an annulment could be that one spouse was already married, was tricked into the marriage, or was too young at the time to legally marry.
The division of marital property after a divorce will generally depend on whether or not you live in a "community property" state. Community property states consider nearly all property obtained after the marriage as equally owned by both spouses. As a result, the property will generally be equally split after the divorce. Absent community property statutes, it's typically up to the court to divide marital property between both parties. In either case, courts will normally accept a property division agreement if the spouses can create their own.
Alimony and spousal support are interchangeable terms that refer to monthly payments from one ex-spouse to another following a divorce. These payments can be court-ordered or arranged by the parties involved and are intended to account for the adverse economic effect a divorce can have on one party. All spousal support agreements and amounts are unique, depending on the spouses' individual incomes and property, their earning capacity, the duration of the marriage, and whether children and child support are involved, among other factors.
Attorneys aren't needed for every divorce, but in many cases legal assistance can be beneficial, if not crucial. With the complex nature of some divorce procedures and emotions running high, it often helps to have a knowledgeable resource for information and a skilled advocate for negotiations and possible court proceedings.
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