What are the costs involved for filing a divorce?
The filing fee is approximately $100-$200 in most places. If a response
is filed, add another $100-$200. These fees are collected by the government
and are in addition to any service or legal fees or those charged by this
What about alimony?
Spousal support, otherwise known as "alimony," is not required in all
cases in most states, but should be considered and may even be ordered
by the judge under certain circumstances.
Spousal support should be considered if the circumstances are such that a
spouse will face hardships if he or she does not receive financial support.
The deciding reason for spousal support is the need to maintain the spouse
at his or her customary standard of living. In other words, the law
recognizes that a wife (or husband) should not be forced to live at a
level below that enjoyed during the marriage.
However, other factors also need to be considered. For example, spousal
support should most likely not be considered if the marriage was short
(under two or three years), and both spouses are self-sufficient.
However, if the parties agree on support, the court is bound to accept it.
However, when spousal support is not awarded in the original decree, that
decree cannot later be modified to award spousal support.
Marital Settlement Agreement...
What is it?
A marital settlement agreement spells out the terms of the divorce and the
relationship between the two spouses after the divorce. Parties to a
divorce are encouraged to enter into a written property settlement
agreement containing provisions for the maintenance of either spouse,
the disposition of any property owned by either spouse, the allocation
of debts, and the support and custody of any minor children. The agreement
of the parties is then presented to the court for its approval and a
decree of dissolution is entered.
Filing a marital settlement agreement is not required but it has many
advantages. First, it prevents ambiguities. Second, it avoids court because
the judge will most likely honor the written agreement if written correctly
and if it covers all material aspects of the divorce. Third, it shows the
court that the issues were considered carefully, and the case will move
more quickly though the system.
Marital settlement agreements can be entered into at any time before the
final judgment. They are typically filed with the final judgment.
How is child custody decided?
The parents must decide on the custody of minor children. Custody includes
physical custody, i.e., where will the children live. It also includes
legal custody, or who will make the important decisions regarding the
children's health, education, etc. Both physical and legal custody can
be either joint or sole.
Note that joint custody means the sharing of parental rights and duties and
not just necessarily equal time.
Must I go to court?
If your divorce is uncontested and if a marital settlement agreement is
filed, then in most cases, no. In that case, all of the legal documents
can be filed with the court, and the judgment can be sent to you. The
court could request a formal or informal hearing. At an informal hearing,
the judge may ask questions about certain facts presented in the papers.
At a formal hearing, the divorce case must be presented from the beginning.
In most uncontested cases, however, all questions relating to the divorce
are settled prior to the actual hearing (or trial). Thus the hearing (or
trial) often lasts only minutes.
How can I change my name
Upon request, the judge handling your divorce can usually make a formal
order to restore your former or birth name. Obtain certified copies of your
divorce decree as proof of name change to use on your identification and
personal records. In most states you can also simply begin using your
former name consistently and have it changed on your identification and
personal records, even if it doesnt appear on your divorce papers.
What are the Residency
requirements for filing for divorce?
The requirements for establishing residency vary from state to state.
Someone who files for divorce must offer proof that he has resided there
for the required length of time.
If one spouse meets the residency requirement of a state or country, a
divorce obtained there is valid, even if the other spouse lives somewhere
else. The courts of all states will recognize the divorce. Any decisions
the court makes regarding property division, alimony, custody and child
support, however, may not be valid unless the non-resident spouse
consented to the jurisdiction of the court or later acts as if the
foreign divorce was valid -- for example, by paying court-ordered child
What is no-fault divorce?
No-fault divorce eliminates the need to prove one party is at fault for
causing the breakdown of the marriage. No-fault divorce is divorce granted
on the basis of a showing by either spouse that a marriage is
"irretrievably broken." One spouse must simply state a reason recognized
by the state and, in some states, the couple must also live apart for a
period of time. Marital misconduct does not need to be proven. The most
common grounds for no-fault divorce are separation, irreconcilable
differences, and irretrievable breakdown, i.e., you no longer live
together or you are no longer compatible and have very different goals,
needs and desires for your life, or your marriage has deteriorated beyond
the point of repair.
Who pays for debts made during
Parties should agree which of them will pay each of their joint debts.
Even so, your agreement (and even the decree of the court) is binding only
between you and your spouse. Creditors are not required to honor the
apportionment of joint debts in the Decree of Divorce or agreement.
Thus, if the spouse who is supposed to pay fails to do so, the creditors
may seek payment from the other spouse. Then he or she has to try to
collect the money from the one who was supposed to pay. Even so, you
should write to each of the creditors and put them on notice as to your
What is the difference between
no-fault divorce and uncontested divorce?
An uncontested divorce is a matter of agreement between spouses, whereas
no-fault divorce pertains to the grounds for the divorce.
An uncontested divorce is one in which both spouses agree on the grounds
for the divorce, the economic settlement arrangements, and matters
concerning the children.
In no-fault divorce, it is not necessary to prove that one partner was
guilty of marital misconduct. The grounds are normally separation,
irreconcilable differences, and irretrievable breakdown.
Can I change my child's
name upon divorce?
A child's name may be changed by court petition when it is in the best
interest of the child to do so. The court will consider the length of
time the father's name has been used, the strength of the mother-child
relationship, and the need of the child to identify with a new family
unit (if the change involves remarriage) and balance these factors against
the strength and importance of the father-child relationship.
How is property divided,
including retirement funds?
In most states, accrued or vested retirement benefits earned during the
marriage are community property and subject to division in divorce, with
each spouse entitled to half. The retirement benefits which are subject
to this community property application include military pensions, veterans
educational benefits, ERISA funds, IRAs, Keoghs, Employee Stock Option
Plans (ESOPS), 401K plans, but do not include railroad retirement benefits,
social security payments, compensation for military injuries, and worker's
compensation disability awards.
The issue of retirement benefits should be settled one way or the other
and included in the petition, marital settlement agreement and judgment
per a spouses waiver of retirement benefits or the division of any such
benefits. A spouse should waive retirement benefits only if that spouse's
share is worth very little.
Benefits may be divided per (1) the present-day valuation buy-out
(where the present-day value of the retirement benefit is converted into
cash or other assets of equal value), or (2) division into two accounts.
To determine the value of stock option and pension plans, it may be worth
the $150-300 paid to a professional pension actuary or appraiser.
If the retirement account is to be divided upon divorce, special attention
must be paid so that the tax advantages of retirement benefits are not
lost. A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) will be required to
transfer a share of retirement funds from the spouse participating in the
retirement plan to the other spouse. Please contact the retirement plan
administrator or a qualified attorney for more information regarding
When can I remarry after
In most states, you can get married the day your divorce decree is made
final. In the few states that do set a time limit, the period is not
very long, but you would have to check the laws in your state to determine
whether or not there is any restriction on your remarriage.