The following pages contain a summary of the divorce
laws of all states and the District of Columbia. It has
been compiled directly from the most recently-available
statute books and updates for each state. Every effort
has been made to assure that the information contained
in these pages is accurate and complete. However, laws
are subject to constant change. Therefore, those legal
points which are particularly important in your
situation should be checked directly in the appropriate
law book or with a lawyer to be certain that the law has
The correct terminology for each state is used in these
pages. However, some states use certain language
interchangeably. In those states, the most commonly-used
language is stated. Although it has been simplified to
some extent, you will find that the language in these
pages is somewhat complicated. This is due to the fact
that much of the language in the pages has been taken
directly from the laws and statutes of each state. We
apologize for this. We feel, however, that, as a
reference, the technical details of the laws should be
provided. The following information is listed for each
RESIDENCY REQUIREMENTS AND WHERE TO FILE: The
specific time limits that you or your spouse must have
lived in your state (and possibly county) are explained.
Which particular county (or parish) that you should file
for your divorce is also listed. This is technically
referred to as the venue.
LEGAL GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE: The specific language
of the grounds for divorce in each state are listed.
Some states have more than one no-fault ground. If this
is the case, they are specified by numbering each
particular ground Some states have also retained some
fault-based divorce grounds. These are referred to as
"General" grounds and are only for your
information. You will be using a "No-fault"
NAME OF COURT IN WHICH TO FILE FOR DIVORCE: The
information under this heading shows the name of the
correct court in which to file your papers for divorce.
It may also show the exact wording necessary for the
court name in the caption of your divorce court papers.
TITLE OF DIVORCE ACTION: The correct language for
the title of your request for divorce is listed. This is
generally either a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage
or a Complaint for Divorce. In some states, the language
used to describe the case are also noted. For example:
"In the Matter of the Marriage of __________ and
NAME USED TO DESCRIBE SPOUSE FILING FOR DIVORCE:
This refers to the person who will officially be the one
filing for divorce. Generally, this will either be
Plaintiff or Petitioner, although some states allow
NAME USED TO DESCRIBE OTHER SPOUSE IN DIVORCE:
refers to the title of the other spouse, technically the
one against whom the divorce is filed. Generally, this
will be either the Defendant or Respondent, although
some states allow joint Co-Petitioners.
TITLE OF FINAL DIVORCE PAPERS: This is the actual
title of the document that will declare you divorced.
You will prepare this and submit it to the judge for his
or her signature.
LEGAL SEPARATION: This information explains the
situation in your state relating to legal court-ordered
separation. You may live separate and apart under the
terms of your Marital Settlement Agreement without
obtaining a legal court-ordered separation. The grounds
and residency requirements for court-ordered separations
SIMPLIFIED OR SPECIAL DIVORCE PROCEDURES: Many
states now have instituted procedures which allow for a
simplified procedures to be used in obtaining a divorce.
In addition, some states have mandatory forms which are
required to be used. Other states have specific
provisions relating to shortening the divorce process.
All of the details of any specific methods to shorten or
streamline the divorce process are contained under this
MEDIATION OR COUNSELING REQUIREMENTS: Most states
have now instituted voluntary mediation or conciliation
services that are available to spouses on request or on
the order of the judge. The details regarding this
aspect of divorce are listed here.
PROPERTY DISTRIBUTION: A description of which
property is subject to division upon divorce and what
factors are considered in the distribution are contained
in this section. Community, separate, non-marital, and
marital property is defined for each state.
ALIMONY/MAINTENANCE/SPOUSAL SUPPORT: The laws and
factors for consideration relating to the awarding of
alimony are discussed under this heading.
SPOUSE'S NAME: Each state's laws regarding the
restoration of a spouse's name are included.
CHILD CUSTODY: The details of how child custody
decisions are made are contained under this heading.
Each state's particular factors for consideration are
explained. Specific state provisions for joint custody
are also detailed.
CHILD SUPPORT: The various laws relating to child
support are outlined. In recent years, this area has
become the most complex aspect of divorce. Virtually all
states now have detailed child support guidelines that
are to be applied in child support situations. The
availability of specific state child support guidelines
and general state requirements to guarantee child
support payments are noted.
Divorce Laws: Introduction & Overview
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