The Ways Divorce Laws Vary from State to State

lawyer explaining divorce policy to couple

Going through a divorce is often unpleasant. While the experience is unique for each family, where the divorce was filed also affects the process. Federal laws have no say in divorces in the United States. Instead, the state regulates divorces, and these laws vary greatly. Each state has their own way of treating certain aspects of divorce, including the following.

The requirements for divorce

Before you can file for divorce, you need to meet several requirements, especially the residency requirements of your state. In some states, such as Iowa and Alaska, either party is not required to reside there for a certain period of time, while the required duration of residence in other states ranges from several months to one year or more, which is the case in New Jersey and Rhode Island.

If you wish to file for a no-fault divorce, most states impose a waiting period before granting the divorce. One of the states with the longest waiting time is Maryland, where you might wait up to two years. A few states have no waiting time for a no-fault divorce, as a Santa Fe divorce lawyer would explain to you if you are getting divorced in New Mexico. The wait may be imposed after the Date of Separation (DOS), before you can file, or after you file, and before the divorce can be finalized.

How state laws define the DOS also differs. It might be the date of physical separation even within the marital residence, the date a spouse moves out of the house, or the date a spouse informs the other that they intend to file for divorce.

Separating the property

home between couple that are fighting

It depends on how state laws classify something as separate or marital property whether or not a particular asset has to be divided in the divorce. Most states make the distinction between marital and separate property, even if the separate property is limited. However, some states, such as Michigan, Vermont, Connecticut, and Massachusetts do not usually make the distinction.

In most state laws, separate property is defined as inheritances received by either party, property owned by either spouse before they were married, property acquired by either spouse after the DOS, gifts received by either spouse from third parties, payments for personal injury lawsuits, and any property designated as separate property in their prenuptial or postnuptial agreement.

Financial affidavit

A crucial requirement in a divorce case is a financial affidavit, where you detail your debts, assets, income, and expenses. Although this document is required in all states, it is called different things. It is called a “Case Information Statement” in New Jersey, a “Statement of Net Worth” in New York, and a “Financial Declaration” in Utah. No matter where you file for divorce, completing a financial affidavit accurately and thoroughly is a painstaking process, but specific requirements for the document vary from state to state.

Spousal support

Alimony means different things depending on the state. Many states limit the duration of alimony payments to various degrees, most of them linking the length of marriage to the duration of alimony. Some states have even banned alimony, only allowing a few exemptions. Some states prohibit a spouse who committed adultery from receiving alimony.

Most couples cannot choose where to file for divorce. But if you have homes in multiple states, thoroughly research your options, and choose accordingly. As Paul Simon’s song goes, there must be 50 ways to leave your lover, and there are just as many when divorcing your spouse.

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