Everything You Need to Know About Getting Divorced

George Simons

May 07, 2022

Summary: Dealing with divorce? Here's SoloSuit's guide on everything you need to know about divorce and your options.

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When you and your partner decide to terminate your marriage, you can make it official by filing a divorce. The process of filing for divorce varies depending on several factors such as the type of divorce, how long the couple has been married, whether or not they have kids, etc. In addition, some divorce processes are faster and less stressful than others.

Types of Divorce Processes

Divorce processes fall under different categories for convenience. The most common ones include:

  • Summary divorce
  • Uncontested divorce
  • Contested divorce
  • Divorce arbitration
  • Mediated divorce
  • No-fault divorce
  • Fault-divorce
  • Collaborative divorce

If you are considering divorce, we're here to break down each of these divorce types so that you can thoroughly weigh all your options. Let's get started.

Summary Divorce

As the name suggests, a summary divorce is usually processed much faster than most types of divorce. In a summary divorce, the parties submit their written agreement to the court. The agreement covers issues such as the distribution of assets among the divorcing parties. The court only needs to approve the divorce because both parties already have an agreement. In most cases, a summary divorce can be processed without the divorcing parties ever setting foot in a courtroom.

But this kind of divorce doesn't work for everyone. Most states only allow a summary divorce if:

  • the marriage is less than five years old;
  • the divorcing parties do not have children together either through birth or adoption,
  • the parties own a limited amount of property or no property at all; or
  • both parties agree to waive the right to receive spousal support.

A summary divorce may be approved in some jurisdictions just as long as both parties reach an agreement. In that case, it won't matter whether or not the parties have children or property together.

A summary divorce is also known as a simplified divorce because it's less complex than other divorce processes. Parties involved in a summary divorce don't usually need a divorce attorney, although they can choose to have one if they want to.

Uncontested Divorce

An uncontested divorce is usually easy to process because it is based on a mutual agreement between both parties. In an uncontested divorce, both parties agree to part ways amicably. Before filing for this kind of divorce, the parties discuss different issues such as child custody, child support, division of property, alimony, visitation, etc.

After reaching an agreement, they write the terms of the agreement and then file for divorce. The terms of agreement is also popularly known as a 'property settlement agreement' or simply a 'separation agreement.'

The parties will then file the divorce with the court. An uncontested divorce takes a shorter process because it does not involve legal battles. Like a summary divorce, some states may even process an uncontested divorce without summoning the parties to appear physically in court. However, they may be required to sign a sworn statement with the court clerk.

Parties filing uncontested divorce may still need an attorney to review the paperwork, including the settlement agreement. This is especially important if children are involved in the divorce process.

Individuals filing an uncontested divorce can also decide to work with a legal document preparer. This individual helps prepare legal documents, but unlike an attorney, they can't provide legal advice to the divorcing couple. Instead, their main role is to ensure that the paperwork has been filed correctly, minimizing the chances of delays caused by rejected petitions.

Contested Divorce

As expected, a contested divorce is usually the most stressful and complex. The parties involved opt for this option when they can't agree on important issues regarding the divorce, such as child custody, spousal support, division of property, etc. As a result, a court judge steps in to decide on their behalf.

In addition, a contested divorce is usually expensive because it involves stressful, time-consuming, and complex legal processes. For this reason, this kind of divorce usually requires the intervention of an attorney.

A contested divorce also has some advantages, even though it is expensive and stressful. For instance, it helps reveal concealed assets that could impact the court's ruling on certain issues, such as child support. It's not uncommon for one spouse to hide assets, especially in a contested divorce.

This kind of divorce is also necessary when both parties can't decide on co-parenting arrangements. As a result, the judge steps in to make such decisions and provide guidelines that both parties must follow during and after the divorce. These guidelines include visitation rights, custody rights, child support, and other important issues concerning children of the divorcing parties.

In cases where one party is abusive towards the other, it may be difficult to reach an agreement without the court's intervention. For this reason, a contested divorce helps provide some sense of security to the victim of abuse by protecting them from threats or manipulation by the other party.

Divorce Arbitration

A divorce arbitration almost resembles a trial, but the main difference is that it's usually held in a less intimidating setting. The arbitrator will most likely be an attorney or retired judge. Unlike a mediated divorce, the arbitrator has the authority to decide on the divorce, just like a judge in a divorce court would.

One benefit of divorce arbitration is that it gives the divorcing parties the freedom to choose the venue and time of the meeting. It also allows them to choose the terms of the meeting. However, before settling for this kind of divorce, you need to bear in mind that the arbitrator's decision is final. Therefore, choosing this option means you're waiving your right to appeal the final decision.

Mediated Divorce

In a mediated divorce, the mediator helps both parties reach a settlement agreement. The main goal of this kind of divorce is to avoid conflict and find an amicable way of separating from each other. However, the mediator doesn't decide for the divorcing parties like an arbitrator would. Instead, this individual helps both parties communicate peacefully.

No-Fault Divorce

Many years ago, most divorce courts required the petitioner to provide reasons for divorce. But things are different these days - the petitioner doesn't need to give a reason for divorce. This kind of divorce is usually known as a no-fault divorce.

In a no-fault divorce, one party doesn't blame the other for ruining the marriage (even though they may privately blame each other). Instead, all they have to do is inform the court that they would like to part ways due to 'irreconcilable differences' or 'irremediable breakdown.'

These legal terms basically mean that the marriage is broken beyond repair and that the only way out is through a divorce. However, some states like Louisiana and Arkansas don't recognize 'irreconcilable differences' as a valid reason for divorce.

But this also doesn't mean that you can't divorce your partner in these two states if you have irreconcilable differences. Instead of using this term when filing for divorce, these states adopt alternative terms such as 'separation.' The divorcing parties will then show the court that they've been separated for a certain period of time.

Fault-Divorce

A fault divorce is the direct opposite of no-fault divorce. In a fault divorce, one spouse argues that the other spouse did something that destroyed the marriage. For instance, the spouse could cite abandonment, substance abuse, adultery, or even a criminal conviction as the main reason for divorce.

The alleged fault could influence the court's decision regarding the divorce. For example, suppose the divorce is based on one spouse having an affair. In that case, the court might award the innocent spouse a greater share of the marital property if the at-fault spouse wasted marital money and resources on the extramarital affair.

Collaborative Divorce

In collaborative divorce, both parties agree to collaborate, usually through attorneys experienced and specialized in this kind of divorce. In addition, both parties agree to disclose information that will be critical to the divorce process. For example, the issue of property ownership and assets is usually discussed in such a setting. Honestly is also another requirement throughout the process of a collaborative divorce.

Although the main goal of a collaborative divorce is to have both parties work together towards settling, the possibility of failure to reach an agreement still exists. In that case, the divorcing partners will have to file the divorce in court.

It's also important to note that the attorneys involved in a collaborative divorce process cannot represent their clients (the divorcing parties) in court if they don't settle out of court. Instead, the divorcing parties will have to hire new attorneys. This is done to ensure that the collaborative divorce attorneys act in good faith during the collaborative process.

The divorce process explained

The exact process of filing for divorce varies depending on the type and jurisdiction handling the petition. However, most states have almost similar processes with only some minor differences. Here's what the typical process of filing for a divorce looks like.

The petition for divorce

The spouse seeking a divorce files a petition and serves the other spouse. The petition is then filed with the state court located in the county where the spouses live. A typical divorce petition will reveal the names of the divorcing spouses, their children, if any, and whether the spouses have any property together.

The service of process

The process of serving the other spouse with the divorce paperwork is usually known as the Service of Process. This is usually one of the most important parts of the divorce process because it often determines how this petition will be handled. For example, if it's a contested divorce, the spouse being served with the divorce papers may refuse to sign them and probably have their attorney intervene.

However, if it's an uncontested divorce, all the other party needs to do is sign the paperwork.

When the divorce papers have been served successfully, some jurisdictions automatically activate restraining orders on the spouses. This means that they can't travel with the children out of state, acquire loans against the property, sell any property, or do anything the court prohibits within that period.

The response

Most states give respondents up to 30 days to respond to a divorce petition. In their response, they can either accept the petition or contest it. Failure to respond to the petition could prompt the court to award the petitioner whatever they've claimed in the petition.

The verdict

If both parties don't contest the divorce, the court will enter a judgment to confirm the end of the marriage. However, if it's a contested divorce, the process usually takes longer because the court will have to evaluate several factors, as discussed earlier, before making a final ruling.

What happens if you can't locate the other spouse to sign the divorce paperwork?

When you can't locate the other spouse to sign the divorce paperwork, you can hire a process server to deliver the paperwork to them personally. A process server unearths information that would pinpoint the location of an individual or entity and then locates them. For example, they may search databases, social media profiles, the internet, or even contact the respondent's friends.

What's the difference between a summary divorce and an uncontested divorce?

In a summary divorce, the divorcing couple doesn't usually have kids or significant property together. In addition, this kind of divorce is filed by individuals who have been married to each other for less than five years and have willfully decided to end their marriage.

In an uncontested divorce, the divorcing parties may have kids or property together. They may even have been married for more than five years. However, like a summary divorce, uncontested divorce involves individuals who've already reached a settlement agreement with each other regarding their divorce and don't have any contentious issues that require the court's attention. The court's role, in this case, is to finalize the divorce by making it official.

Do I need to file for divorce in the county of marriage?

No, you don't need to file a divorce in the county of marriage. You can file it in the county where you live or the county where your spouse lives.

How soon can I remarry after divorce?

Most states don't have a waiting period before you can remarry after a divorce. However, a few states do have this requirement. For instance, you must wait up to 60 days to marry a new person in Alabama, but there's no waiting period if you decide to remarry the same person. In Nebraska, you must wait for 30 days to remarry the same spouse or six months to marry a new person. In Kansas, you must wait for 30 days unless you waive this requirement in the Decree.

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