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Introduction & Overview

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 not changed.

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 state:

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" ground.

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 joint Co-Petitioners.

NAME USED TO DESCRIBE OTHER SPOUSE IN DIVORCE: This 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 are included.

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 heading.

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.
Source:  DivorceSource
State Divorce Laws: Introduction & Overview

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