Divorce Types: How To Choose


Divorces aren't all alike and laws vary by state. Find the divorce route that works best for you.

Getting a divorce can be like peeling gum off your shoe. Sometimes it comes right off in one smooth lump. Sometimes it needs a little encouragement from a twig. And sometimes it sticks with such hellish obstinacy you wish you'd just left it alone.

Whether you've been married for several years or only a few months, divorce is never simple. It's easy to get overwhelmed by legal and financial worries, not to mention emotional stresses. Knowing your options and choosing the appropriate path will make this difficult time no harder than it needs to be.

Absolute or Limited

Absolute divorce is exactly what it sounds like: the legal end of your marriage. A limited divorce, on the other hand, resembles a legal separation and is ordered by the court. This is more of a temporary state while you continue to negotiate alimony, property division, child support and custody. In a limited divorce, you cannot have sexual relations with anyone until an absolute divorce has been obtained. Different states have varying laws that may apply to you.

No-fault or At-Fault

An at-fault divorce used to be the only type possible, until California passed a no-fault law in 1970 and other states followed suit. One party is held to be "at fault" for the end of the marriage, because of infidelity, desertion, abuse or other reasons. If you file for an at-fault divorce, you will need to prove to the court that your ex is at fault, and provide supporting evidence. Generally, an attorney is required, and the proceedings can be pricey.

If neither you or your ex consider the other to be completely at fault, you will likely prefer a no-fault divorce (unless you live in New York, the only state which still does not allow them). In a no-fault divorce, no explanation is necessary. You don't even need your ex's consent.

Uncontested or Contested

Most divorces in the United States are uncontested. Either your partner doesn't respond to you or doesn't legally dispute your decisions, or else the two of you decide to create your own divorce agreement. If your partner files for divorce and you choose not to contest their decisions about finances or property, be aware that you may be unknowingly waiving important rights. Consulting with a lawyer can save you years of regret down the road.

If the two of you can't agree, you will need to appear before a judge. This is known as a contested divorce and is much more costly and complicated.

Next: More peaceful ways to end your marriage...

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