Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “Do I really need a reason to get a divorce?” Most states began modifying their divorce laws in the 1970s, allowing for what has been called a “divorce law revolution.” With the change in the laws a new no-fault system was constructed, replacing what some have called a “cumbersome” fault-based system. Even with the no-fault divorce laws, however, if you are considering divorce, you will need to choose a legal reason for the divorce.
No-Fault divorce laws
No-fault divorce laws depart significantly from earlier at-fault laws. Prior to the divorce law changes couples could only get divorced for very specific reasons. Although these reasons vary by state, they often include cruel and abusive treatment, desertion for at least a year, excessive alcohol or drug abuse, gross or wanton neglect to provide support, adultery, impotency, or confinement in a penal institution for five years or more.
After the implementation of no-fault laws, however, couples could get divorced in most states simply by stating there has been an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. Spouses may file a joint petition in which they both agree the marriage is over or one spouse can file the divorce petition on their own, without their spouse’s consent.
If only one spouse files for divorce there is generally a waiting period before a hearing is scheduled, but even if the spouse never responds or does not show up to the hearing the court has the legal authority to make decisions for marital issues such as spousal support, child custody, child support, visitation, and property distribution.
Considerations before divorce
Divorce is a very important decision, often with lifelong consequences for all parties involved. Before severing the relationship, which will include personal, social, and financial considerations, it is important to make sure you are making the right decision.
Our no-fault divorce laws have made it much easier to divorce a spouse, but the emotional ramifications are the same as they have been for centuries, and children often suffer the brunt of the emotional trauma of their parent’s decision.
Before making this important decision you may want to consider the following:
- Seek counsel from a trusted adviser. For some this may mean talking to a priest, pastor, counselor or professional therapist.
- Talk to a financial adviser. Although many women now have greater financial freedom than in previous generations, it is important to consider the total cost for the divorce and whether or not you can afford to live on your own.
- Reviewing all of your financial information, including retirement accounts, investments, and property. To do this you will need to obtain copies of all of your important financial documents.
- Consider what changes will need to be made to retirement accounts and credit card accounts.
Even if getting a divorce seems simple; it is not. Do not make any hasty decisions. Give the relationship time and see if you can reconcile with your spouse. You may not need much of a reason to divorce your spouse, but you should have a good one.
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