Dissolving a marriage is a legally complicated process. There is alimony and property division to consider, and child custody agreements to be negotiated. A divorce lawyer can be your ally and advocate, dealing with the legal details while helping you come to a mutually agreeable settlement with your spouse.
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Filing for divorce may be common, but it is also a complicated legal procedure requiring the advice and representation of a family law attorney experienced with the particular rules and statutes at play in your part of the country.

What is a Divorce?

Legally referred to as dissolution of marriage in many states, a divorce is the termination of a marriage by a legal proceeding or in a court. Divorces are generally categorized as contested or uncontested. In a contested divorce, the parties cannot agree on at least one issue, while in an uncontested divorce, the parties agree to all terms.

A legal separation, which many states still offer, only terminates the right of cohabitation, but not the legal status of the marriage itself.

Filing for Divorce

After retaining an experienced divorce attorney, the spouse seeking divorce prepares a petition for divorce and files it with the court in the state in which he or she lives. Each state has its own residency requirement for how long a spouse must live within the state before being eligible to file for divorce. See our article on filing divorce papers for links to each state's forms.

Grounds for Divorce

Each state has its own statutory grounds for divorce. Grounds are typically classified as fault or no-fault. Some states offer both as available grounds, while other states have done away with fault divorces altogether; New York is the only state that still does not offer a no-fault divorce option.

  • Fault A fault divorce requires particular wrongdoing by one of the spouses, followed by evidentiary proceedings to prove the wrongdoing. Each state defines via statute what grounds can constitute a basis for finding fault in that state. Common grounds include adultery, extended imprisonment, or cruel treatment or abuse.
  • No-Fault In a no-fault divorce, neither party must prove the other engaged in wrongdoing. A spouse can be granted a no-fault divorce based merely on the marriage being irretrievably broken or the parties having irreconcilable differences.

As the laws governing divorce vary not only from state to state but from county to county, it is important to find a divorce attorney with specific experience in your particular jurisdiction.

Find a Local Divorce Attorney