Divorce: An Overview

Divorce, also known as the dissolution of marriage, is the ending of a marriage before the death of either spouse. In the United States, it is estimated that approximately 31% of marriages end in divorce, and the divorce rate is currently declining, compared to past decades. The leading causes for divorce in the United States are infidelity, family strains, financial difficulties, emotional and/or physical abuse, and mid-life crisis.

Divorce laws tend to vary by state in the U.S. With the July 2010 passing of the No-Fault Divorce law in New York, all states now allow for divorce without requiring spouses to establish mandatory "grounds" such as adultery, abuse, abandonment or legal separation, though these grounds may be alleged if the situation calls for it. With no-fault divorce, spouses are able to seek a divorce citing "irreconcilable differences" or a similar scenario. Additionally, some states require spouses to meet residency restrictions before they can file for a divorce. When spouses decide to divorce, they must sort through a variety of issues such as spousal support, child support, child custody, and property distribution. If spouses cannot come to an agreement in relation to these issues, the courts must intervene and make decisions for them.

Contested vs. Uncontested or Collaborative Divorce

Contrary to common belief, the majority of divorces are resolved outside of the courtroom. This is most often accomplished through uncontested divorce proceedings, where spouses are able to reach their own agreements regarding support, property and custody. If they run into some difficulty in resolving these matters, they may turn to negotiation or mediation by way of a collaborative divorce. A collaborative approach may save a considerable amount of time and money as opposed to the cost associated with a litigated divorce in court.

When negotiation and mediation are simply not enough to resolve any aspect of a divorce, spouses may need to turn to a contested divorce in court. In a contested divorce, a judge will review the facts of the case and will make a decision regarding the disputed matter. In any type of divorce, involving a lawyer is generally a good idea. A competent divorce lawyer can help you properly plan for your divorce and can help you address any issues that may arise, whether through negotiation, mediation or litigation. Because there are complex issues involved, it can be difficult to understand what rights and options you have. The right lawyer can protect your rights while properly guiding you through the divorce process.

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