Divorce laws govern the dissolution of a marriage. Every country has its own laws regarding divorce and, in fact, divorce laws can vary from state to state or province to province within a nation. Knowing your jurisdiction’s divorce laws can keep a bad situation from becoming worse, and save you future turmoil.
In the United States, divorce laws, in general, provide two basic forms of divorce: fault based and no-fault based. However, even in some jurisdictions whose divorce laws do not require a party to claim fault of their partner, a court may still take into account the behavior of the parties when dividing property, debts, evaluating custody, and support.
Fault-based divorces can be contested and may involve allegations of collusion of the parties, connivance, or provocation by the other party.
In a no-fault divorce, the dissolution of a marriage does not require an allegation or proof of fault of either party. Forty-nine states have adopted no-fault divorce laws, with grounds for divorce including incompatibility, irreconcilable differences, and irremediable breakdown of the marriage. New York is the sole exception divorce laws there still require a proof of fault.
About 95 percent of divorces in the US are “uncontested,” because the two parties are able to work out an arrangement concerning property, debt, children and support issues. When the parties can agree and present the court with a fair and equitable agreement, approval of the divorce is almost guaranteed. If the parties can’t work out their differences, divorce laws govern the fair and equitable disposition of these issues.
Divorce laws generally recognize two types of property during property division proceedings – marital property and separate property. Marital property consists of property that the spouses acquire individually or jointly during the course of marriage. Under divorce laws, separate property constitutes any property that one spouse purchased and possessed prior to the marriage and that did not substantially change in value during the course of the marriage because of the efforts of one or both spouses. Under modern divorce laws, separate property is returned to its original owner, while marital property is divided according to negotiated settlement and what the court deems equitable.
In cases involving children, divorce laws attempt to ensure the matter does not spill over into the family court system. In many jurisdictions, divorce laws require divorcing parents to submit a parenting plan spelling out each party’s rights and responsibilities.
Divorce laws also provide for the establishment of alimony, often depending on the length of the marriage and other factors. Spousal support is becoming less common, however, as more women are entering the workforce and earning their own income.