Getting Divorced: Ten Things You Should Know

Unfortunately, it happens to a lot of marriages. If you are thinking about splitting with your mate or your spouse has walked out, do some research on your options. There are ways to keep the pain of the divorce procedure to a minimum. Get help from friends, family, counselors. Most important, know that you will survive this difficult process.

1. Spying isn’t necessary. Every state has no-fault divorce, so you can get a divorce based on “irreconcilable differences” or the like. You do not have to prove adultery or other offenses. However, some states still consider the concept of fault when making decisions about child custody or alimony.

2. Shopping for divorce court. Every state has a residency requirement, meaning you have to live there for a certain amount of time before filing for divorce. Nevada has the shortest at six weeks—that’s why people go there for “quickie divorces.”

3. “We definitely made a mistake.” If you’ve only been married a short time and don’t have kids or much property, you can usually get a “summary divorce.” You and your spouse file jointly, and the process is expedited.

4. Solomon’s choice. Most courts prefer to order shared or joint custody of children. If a court must decide who gets primary custody, one of several factors considered is which parent will likely be more supportive of the children’s relationship with the other parent.

5. It’s not over till it’s over. Every state has a waiting period between filing your divorce papers and the date you get a divorce judgment. Anyone who has ever watched All My Children knows, you can’t get married again until your divorce is final.

6. Yippee, you get a lawyer, too. In a few states, you can’t represent yourself in a divorce—you have to have a lawyer file papers for you.

7. Reach for your wallet. The average American wedding costs $22,000. The average contested American divorce can cost about the same, and if the conflict goes all the way to a trial, costs can top $70,000.

8. Quicker, cheaper, less pain. In divorce mediation, a neutral third person (the mediator) works with the couple to help them decide custody, support, and division of property. The couple can then file an uncontested divorce and move on.

9. Another high road. Collaborative divorce is also preferable: You and your spouse each have lawyers, but everyone signs a “ no court” agreement and decides the issues together. If you can’t resolve your divorce, you start again with a new lawyer. This expensive consequence provides incentive to resolve things through a collaborative process.

10. Kids first, feelings second. Your kids will suffer less if you don’t fight over them, don’t talk about the other parent negatively, and handle the divorce quickly and cooperatively. Tell your friends, not your children, how lousy your ex is.

Aversion Therapy—It Works!

Here are two ways to lessen your chances of getting divorced:

(1) choose your mate carefully, and (2) sit down with a pint of ice cream and a DVD of Kramer vs. Kramer or The War of the Roses. That should do it.

The article was excerpted from Nolo's Little Legal Companion. You can get a free copy by signing up for one of Nolo's Legal Newsletters.

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