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How quickly you can secure a divorce depends upon your state’s laws regarding the dissolution of a marriage. Depending upon certain factors, divorce proceedings can take from three months to two years. These factors include the following:
• If the divorce will be contested or uncontested;
• If you meet your state’s minimum residency requirements for divorce;
• If your state requires a waiting period before filing for or finalizing a divorce;
• If your state requires separate residences for you and your spouse for a specific amount of time
Typically, an uncontested divorce has a smoother path toward success than a contested one. An uncontested divorce tends to be amicable. Both spouses tend to agree upon all aspects of the divorce. They agree that a divorce must occur. They are also on one accord regarding child support, child custody, visitation and property division. Such harmony can lead to a final decree of divorce being granted approximately 60 days after filing the initial divorce complaint.
A contested divorce tends to be more complicated. The spouses do not agree upon anything. Typically, one spouse files for an at-fault divorce. This means that that spouse is seeking a divorce for a specific legal reason. The following reasons can be grounds for a divorce:
• Desertion for one year;
• Natural impotency;
• Conviction and prison sentence;
• Preexisting marriage;
• Cruel and inhuman treatment;
• Insanity at the time of marriage;
• Habitual drunkenness or drug abuse;
• Pregnancy at the time of marriage (whereby the groom was not the father);
• Incurable insanity
Burden of proof lies with the spouse who initiates the divorce. Once the divorce complaint is filed, then the accused spouse files a response either admitting or denying the allegations. Then, depending upon the Court’s docket, a hearing is generally scheduled within 60 days following the accused spouse’s response. Since the Court will be determining the issues of child support, child custody, visitation, property division and such, time is of the essence. The gathering of all necessary information, documents, witnesses and such should commence immediately. Lacking such information will only prolong the divorce proceedings.
In some states, residency plays a role in determining how soon you can file for a divorce. Typically, minimum residency requirements range from three to six months in many states. However, Alaska, South Dakota and Washington do not have any residency requirements. This means that you can file for a divorce immediately upon moving to those states. Plus, there is only a six-week residency requirement for the spouse initiating the divorce in Idaho and Nevada.
Waiting periods are not mandatory in all states. A waiting period, which is also known as a “cooling off period,” is the amount of time that must occur before filing for a divorce or finalizing a divorce. Typically, it begins as soon as the divorce is filed or when the spouse is served with the divorce papers. The purpose of a waiting period is to give the spouses time to think about ending their marriage.
Not all states require spouses to live apart from each other for a certain amount of time. Spouses can live together while living separate lives. However, some states do have separation requirements that range from six months to a year and a half. During that timeframe, separation means living in separate residences, as well as not having a sexual relationship with your spouse.
Many people find that they wished that the results of their divorce decree were different than what they are. However, it is generally not easy to change a court order, particularly something as potentially contentious as a divorce decree. The passage of time further complicates the process of amending a decree. In simple terms, the longer a person waits, the less likely he or she is to have a divorce decree changed. It is important to note that there are some areas of the decrees that can be changed fairly easily, but most changes to a divorcee decree are uncommon and difficult.
The area of divorce decrees that are most commonly amended are parts dealing with child custody, child support and alimony payments. When there has been a change in circumstances for one or both of the parties, courts will generally allow for the modification of a child support order. The most common change in circumstances is a change in financial standing. Both parties will be given a chance to provide their financial information and the court will use a state approved formula to determine the proper amount of child support. Some examples of situations that most courts will consider making a modification include: if one or both of the parties has moved, an older child wants to change residences or changes in a parent’s lifestyle (such as one parent now working the night shift).
Modification to alimony payments are less common than child support payments. However, alimony may be modifiable depending on the language of the divorce order. Modification of alimony typically requires more significant changes in the financial circumstances of the parties than does child support modification. As a general rule, the financial changes must be significant, such as one party going to work or becoming disabled and unable to work. Beyond changing payment amounts or custody, modifying a divorce decree is very difficult unless both parties agree to the change.
In most other cases, a person wanting to change a divorce decree will need to be able to prove a legally valid reason to question the fairness of the divorce decree. The two most common factors are fraud and duress. To prove fraud, a person will need proof that the other party purposefully hid information that was important to the court’s divorce decision. For example, if one party hid financial assets from the other party during the divorce process, the court would likely hear the request for modification. For duress, a person will have to prove that he or she was improperly pressured to make a decision. While virtually all divorce decisions involve some level of stress, duress refers specifically to improper pressure. For example, one party may have made a physical threat against the other party in the divorce to sign the divorce settlement. Threatening to cause a person to lose his or her job may also qualify as duress. The legal release of embarrassing information, such as telling family members about affairs or other events, generally does not constitute duress.
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