5 Things You Need to Know About Divorce

Written by AskTheLawyers.com™

5 Things You Need to Know About Divorce

A small percentage of marriages end easily and cleanly with little argument from either side. Most divorces require a bit of push and pull before reaching a settlement. Here is some basic information that can help you to get the best possible outcome once the divorce process is all said and done. Honestly, there really is no replacement for an excellent divorce attorney when entering a legal battle, but ultimately, the marriage and divorce are yours, so if you have reached the point where you are contemplating divorce (or if it's more like you have been ready for quite some time), this information will empower you during this often emotional and trying process.

Take a minute to look through this information and see what you know. Truly, if you are getting serious about divorce, then it is important that you be aware of the following information. Remember: Knowledge is power, and in a legal case it can make a huge difference.


Federal laws are minimal when it comes to divorce. State laws typically govern divorces, although there are a few federal laws. For example, some require alimony, some don't. Also some require a mandatory "cooling off period", and some don't.

Every state is different when it comes to divorce, so take the time to figure out what your options are.  It's a good idea to plan an educated exit strategy that won't leave you in dire straits. Below are some valuable questions to run through as you contemplate divorce:

1. What are the federal divorce laws?

  • Federal ERISA law regulates retirement accounts
  • the IRS regulates alimony deductions, and
  • federal COBRA provisions also have a hand in how each spouse is supposed to maintain health insurance for those that qualify.
  • Also, if you have kids, know that there are some guidelines regarding child support.

2. What are the divorce laws in your state?

It's important to make yourself familiar with your state laws regardless, but if you file for divorce without at least having an idea about what the laws are in your state, then you are doing yourself a great disservice.

  • For example, if you are served divorce papers, understand this it is extremely important for you to respond so that your divorce doesn't proceed on a default basis with your spouse. By missing the deadline, you lose your ability to have any say about the divorce terms and you could have things that you value taken from you. For many states the deadline is three weeks, but if you just count on this and wait until the last minute in Texas, for example, you will have messed up. The deadline in Texas is 20 days.
  • The state laws cover not just the splitting up of assets (and debt), but also:
    • child support and custody,
    • alimony,
    • state residency laws in regards to when you can file for divorce
    • a required separation period before a couple is able to finally divorce, and
    • temporary orders.

3. Is your state a "community property state" or an "equitable distribution state?"

  • Community property state: There are a few states that follow the community property rule, which is that all assets (and debt) acquired during the marriage belong to both the husband and wife in a simple 50-50 split.
  • Equitable Distribution State: In this case, things might not necessarily be split 50-50 because it might not actually be fair that way. Courts ultimately determine what is fair and equitable for each case.

4. Do you know if debts and assets are treated the same in divorce?

Yes, they are all analyzed and split up in similar ways, and the main goal in an honorable United States court of law is to be fair not only quantitatively, but also qualitatively. So the money is considered, but also the hardships. This is why some states may choose to give the spouse earning more money more financial liability for the child than the other. Again, each state handles this differently.

5. Are student loans treated the same as other types of debt?

Many people seem to think that once people get married, everything they bring with them (including debt) is now shared in marriage. Not so with student loans. You get to take with you what you brought in when it comes to this one. However, there are some things that can make it sticky. Like, what if the student loans were obtained while you were married? The way that this is handled weighs heavily on what state you are in. Check out this article for more information.

How did you do?

Were you already able to answer all of the questions? Do you feel like you could truly protect yourself in a legal divorce battle? Hopefully, you found the information to be helpful.

The truth is that we have barely grazed the top of what all can come up in a divorce case. The complexities of divorce and family law are not always straightforward and the laws change often. For this reason, it would be wise to hire a divorce attorney who understands the inner workings of how things play out in the legal arena in your state.

High stakes for pro se client

It's a big undertaking for someone to represent themselves (called "pro se client"). The court will assume that you know all you need to know in order to represent yourself as well as an attorney. If you mess up in any way (documentation, negotiation, deadlines, trial, etc), typically, there will be no exceptions made for either party, even if they didn't understand something fully and made an honest mistake.


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