About Divorce

Divorces in the USA are governed by the law in the state in which the divorce happens. Divorce, also known as “dissolution of marriage,” is a legal process in which a judge or other nominated state authority legally terminates a marriage, restoring individuals to the status of being single and permitting them to marry others.

Divorce proceedings also include the following matters:

  • Child custody
  • Child support
  • Distribution of property
  • Division of debt
  • Spousal support

Divorcing spouses were once required to show a reason for the dissolution of the marriage by assigning fault to one of the parties (like adultery, sterility, abandonment, insanity, or imprisonment), every state in the USA now allows for “no fault” divorces, usually on the basis of what is known as “irreconcilable differences”.

Nevertheless, many states still allow their courts to take into account the prior behavior of the parties when dividing property and debts, evaluating child custody issues, and determining child and spousal support. Also, some states require a specific period of separation ahead of divorce proceedings (some states also require that the couple undertake therapy), and this, in turn has led to the creation of another category of relationship called “separation.”

It is recommended that both parties in a divorce have legal representation.


For purposes of distributing assets after a divorce, state courts divide property under one of two basic schemes: Community Property and Equitable Distribution.

In community property states, both the husband and wife equally own all money earned by either one of them, regardless of which spouse acquired it, from the beginning of the marriage until the date of the separation. Similarly, all property acquired during the marriage with community money is deemed to be owned equally by both spouses.  Community property is generally divided equally between the spouses, and each spouse keeps his or her individually owned property, usually premarital (before marriage) assets.

With equitable distribution, on the other hand, assets and earnings accumulated during marriage are divided fairly, but not necessarily equally. The court may consider such factors as the respective spouses’ substantial contribution to the accumulation of the property, the market and emotional value of the assets, tax and other economic consequences of the distribution, the parties’ needs, and any other factor relevant to fairness and equity.

Alimony payments, child support obligations, and all other property are considered as part of the equitable distribution.

Terms of Divorce

The terms of a divorce are usually determined by a court, though they may take into account antenuptial agreements (also called “prenuptial agreements”) or postnuptial agreements. Courts may also allow the parties to agree privately to terms for the divorce, subject to the court’s final approval. Such agreements are often reached after mediation or other forms of alternative dispute resolution. If the spouses are able to agree to the terms of the final divorce prior to filing, it is often called an “uncontested divorce.” Uncontested divorces are usually much less expensive, much more amicable, and much quicker than disputed divorce cases.


In cases involving children, states have a public interest in ensuring that children are adequately provided for, and that they are in the custody of a parent or guardian who will provide them with a stable and supportive home environment. All US states now require parents to file a parenting plan or to decide on custody and visitation, either by written agreement or in a court hearing.

Fault & No Fault & Uncontested Divorce

Divorce law deals with the legal proceeding governed by state law that terminates a marriage relationship, requiring a petition, or complaint for divorce or dissolution by one of the parties. Once a divorce is final, parties to a divorce are free to remarry. Grounds for divorce will vary depending on a state’s statutes.

Some states still require a minimal showing of fault, but no-fault divorce is generally the rule, with some states allowing divorce based on fault and no-fault grounds.

Only state courts have jurisdiction over divorces, so the petitioning or complaining party can only file in the state in which he/she is and has been a resident for a period of time. In most states the period from original filing for divorce, serving the petition on the other party and final judgment, or decree, takes several months to allow for a chance of reconciliation.

A fault divorce is one in which one party blames the other for the failure of the marriage by citing marital misconduct or other statutory cause for judicial termination. Fault divorces are most common where domestic abuse is a factor. Abandonment, desertion, inability to engage in sexual intercourse, insanity, and imprisonment are other major causes for fault divorces. In many states, the waiting period is shorter for fault divorces. In states that do allow fault divorces, the spouse who proves the other’s fault might receive a larger share of the marital property or more alimony.

No fault divorce is where neither spouse is required to prove fault or marital misconduct on the part of the other and one party must simply state a reason for the divorce that is recognized by the state, such as incompatibility, irreconcilable differences, or irretrievably broken. In some states, a couple must first live apart for several months before they can obtain a no-fault divorce. No Fault divorces are the most common type of divorce.

An uncontested divorce is a proceeding in which a person sued for divorce does not fight it and instead reaches an agreement with the spouse during the proceedings. In these cases, the terms of the divorce are agreed upon by both parties.

Issues & Distribution of Assets

The possible issues that will need to be addressed in divorces include the following: division of property and payment of debts, child custody and support, maintenance (spousal support), child visitation and lawyer fees.

For purposes of distributing assets after a divorce, courts divide property under one of two basic schemes: community property or equitable distribution.

Community property states both the husband and wife equally own all money earned by either one of them from the beginning of the marriage until the date of separation. In addition, all property acquired during the marriage with community money is deemed to be owned equally by both the wife and husband, regardless of who purchased it. Community property is generally divided equally between the spouses, while each spouse keeps his or her separate property.

Equitable distribution means that assets and earnings accumulated during marriage are divided fairly, but not necessarily equally.

Divorce Case Law

Lucy C. Simons sued the executor of her deceased ex-husband, seeking to set aside his Florida divorce decree. From an adverse final decree she has appealed. The wife had obtained a decree for separate maintenance with a support allowance … click to see more


Petitioner brought this action for divorce in the Virgin Islands. Following argument and submission of the case in this Court, we were authoritatively advised that a final divorce decree had been entered on April 28, 1954, in the State of Connecticut on application of the respondent. The Superior Court of Connecticut found respondent to be… click to see more

Rice v. Rice

The question for decision here is whether the courts of Connecticut gave to a Nevada divorce decree the full faith and credit required by Art. IV, § 1 of the Constitution. Respondent brought the action in a Connecticut Superior Court, seeking a declaratory judgment that a decree of divorce entered against her and in favor of her… click to see more


MR. JUSTICE STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court. Under the Social Security Act a married woman whose husband retires or becomes disabled is granted benefits if she has a minor or other dependent child in her care. A divorced   woman whose former husband retires or becomes disabled… click to see more

Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey

Appeal From the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. (D.C. Civil Action No. 88-3228). Remand from the Supreme Court of the United States… click to see more


Divorce Resources

Filing & Service of Process

It can be confusing and time-consuming to file divorce documents and find a local process server. Your local county court will have guidance on how to file a family law matter either in person or electronically. You can visit CourtFiling.net to eFile court documents and ServeNow.com to hire a local, trusted process server.

Lawyer Reviewed Cases

Helsel v. Noellsch

reviewed by Masterson Law

Opinion Vote: REVERSED. White, Wolff, Stith and Price, JJ., concur; Benton, J., dissents in separate opinion filed; Limbaugh, C.J., concurs in opinion of Benton, J.

Opinion: Katherine and David Helsel divorced in January 2001. In March 2001, Helsel filed suit against Sivi Noellsch for alienation of affection, alleging that Noellsch intentionally interfered with the marriage and caused it to fail. A jury returned a verdict in favor of Helsel. Noellsch filed post-trial motions in the trial court to abolish the tort of alienation of affection… click to see more

Hill v Hill

reviewed by Carson Law Firm

On October 5, 1999, the circuit court dissolved the marriage of Carolyn F. and Bernard J. Hill, ordering Husband to pay maintenance of $1,550 per month. After opinion by the Court of Appeals, this Court granted transfer. Mo. Const. art. V, sect. 10. Affirmed in part… click to see more

Boyd v. Boyd

reviewed by Law Office of Jon R. Boyd

In this marital property case, we must decide whether a mediated settlement agreement that complies with section 6.602(b) of the Texas Family Code is enforceable if one party to the agreement intentionally failed to disclose to the other party the existence of significant marital property… click to see more

Silcox v. Silcox

reviewed by Masterson Law LLC

Amberis David and Sara Beth Silcox were married on September 19, 1980, in Franklin County, Missouri. After thirteen years of marriage, they separated on October 1, 1993. Mrs. Silcox filed a dissolution action on November 22, 1993. The marriage was ordered dissolved by the trial court … click to see more

United States v. Insaulgarat

reviewed by The Waltman Law Firm

Defendant-appellant Luis Enrique Insaulgarat appeals his conviction and sentence for possession of marihuana with intent to distribute. We affirm his conviction, but vacate his sentence and remand for resentencing. Facts and Proceedings Below. On December 13, 2001, after a jury trial, the appellant Luis Enrique Insaulgarat… was found guilty… click to see more

Kent William Sprouse v. Rick Thaler

reviewed by The Carson Law firm, LLC

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND DENYING APPLICATION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS Petitioner Kent William Sprouse was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in Ellis County, Texas. State v. Sprouse, No. 26,824… The conviction and sentence were affirmed on appeal. Sprouse v. State… click to see more

Domangue v. Domangue

reviewed by Compassionate Divorce

Appellant Peggy Domangue appeals the trial court’s entry of a final divorce decree. Peggy raises three issues on appeal. We affirm.BackgroundCharles Domangue filed for divorce on May 1, 2003, and Peggy answered and filed a counter-petition for divorce. The parties participated in mediation that occurred on September 23. Peggy, Charles, and their respective attorneys signed a mediated settlement agreement that determined divisions of, among others, real and personal property… click to see more

Divorce Stories

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