Divorce Overview

Divorce will be one of the most major transitions in your life. It may take between six and eighteen months to complete the proceedings. Even when these proceedings are finished, your divorce may never be “over,” especially if you have children and strong social connections in common. Financially, you will still be dependent on one another to take care of the children. You will also share the responsibility of raising them and then sharing them (and grandchildren too) for the rest of your lives. Emotionally you may still have strong feelings of anger, guilt, or sadness regarding the divorce. Your family life and your social life will be greatly affected as you re-negotiate your relationships with others as single individuals rather than a married couple. In short, everything will change. Not necessarily bad changes, but your life will definitely be radically different.

Ann Landers, the famous advice columnist, used to give this suggestion to people who were thinking of leaving their spouse. She would tell them to ask themselves, “Am I better off with or without this person?” For some, the answer is clear. But for many others, the decision whether to divorce will not be a clear one or an easy one to make.

Should You Divorce?
As you contemplate the changes that divorce will bring, you may be asking yourself if your marriage can still be saved. There may be hope for your marriage, if you and your spouse can fulfill the following statements:

  • Admit that you still love each other.
  • You’re both willing to seek outside help and work on the marriage.
  • You’re both willing to change.
  • You’re both willing to communicate honestly and openly.
  • Agree that neither of you has to be right all the time and both of you are capable of apologizing, asking forgiveness, and forgiving one another when a disagreement arises.

If these conditions can’t be met, or if you can honestly say that the answer to Ann Landers question, “Are you better off with or without this person?” is “without,” then you may be ready to file for divorce.

Divorce versus Annulment
While a divorce is dissolution of a marriage, an annulment is the voiding of a marriage, which treats the union as if it never existed. People who request an annulment usually do so for religious reasons, or in some cases, they believe that divorce carries a stigma. For Catholics who pursue an annulment for religious reasons, the annulment must be approved by the Church rather than by the state alone. There are specific grounds for annulment, and they are: fraud or misrepresentation, inability or unwillingness to consummate the marriage, refusal to have children (if this was not disclosed before the marriage), and concealment of serious personal issues. Example of concealment would include not telling your partner that you have children from a previous relationship or not disclosing a serious addiction problem.

Fault/No Fault
In some states you can choose to pursue a fault or no fault divorce, while other states allow only for no-fault divorces. In a fault divorce, it is necessary to prove that one person was guilty of wrongdoing, such as emotional or physical cruelty, adultery or abandonment. Proving that your spouse was “at fault” allows you an advantage in terms of the settlement that you’re entitled to.

On the other hand, no-fault divorce does not require you to prove that one person was in the wrong. The grounds for this kind of divorce are usually cited as “irreconcilable differences.” Some states require you to live apart for a certain length of time before they will grant a no-fault divorce.

No Response
You can obtain a divorce even if your spouse will not respond to the petition or cannot be located. If your spouse does not answer your petition, the divorce will be granted by default.

Refusal to Divorce
You cannot block a no-fault divorce from proceeding by saying that you do not wish to divorce. Because this constitutes a serious difference between you and your spouse, your refusal in itself is grounds for a divorce for irreconcilable differences.

How can we help?
Divorce Guidelines provides basic information and links for many different issues related to divorce. It offers answers to your most important questions, no matter what stage of the divorce process you currently find yourself in.

We walk you through the process and the issues related to divorce. As you browse the toolbar on the left, you may choose to read each section in order, or you may pick and choose to find the topics most relevant to your immediate needs. For more information, be sure to check out our section on links to other divorce sites and also the wide range of books and workbooks available on divorce. On the lighter side, check out the divorce humor section.

When to tell the other party?
Once you have made up your mind, who should you tell and when? This is a very perplexing question. If you feel safe, the first person to know should probably be your spouse. Not a good idea for them to find out second hand. I don’t think you would want to find out second hand if the roles were reversed. After your spouse and children know, you need to notify family members, close friends and your boss or co-workers if appropriate.

When to tell your spouse really depends on individual circumstances. If this event has been discussed and anticipated and you really believe your spouse won’t “freak out” on you it is probably safe to tell them and work together to make it happen. In many cases this works out. But there are many situations where one really needs to prepare in advance before telling their spouse. In situations where there is going to be shock or animosity or outright hatred you should be well prepared in advance.

Before an Anticipated Divorce Begins

Gather Information
Get copies of your tax returns for the last three years. Make copies of all current bank statements, monthly expenses, credit card statements and any loans or other financial obligations. Make of list of all your assets including real property, investments and retirement accounts, even the cash value of life insurance policies. Try to think of everything of value. Don’t forget current employer compensation information for your spouse if available (i.e. copy of current pay stub).

Financial Security / Insurance
You need to be prepared to make it on your own once you separate from your spouse. You will need an income to cover expenses for housing, food, clothing, transportation, insurance (for auto, home, health and life) and daycare if you have children. You will need to look at all these expenses and develop a realistic budget. To be eligible for social security benefits based on the other spouse’s earnings history you need to have been married for 10 years. So if you have been married nine and a half years you might consider waiting six months to divorce. Don’t forget to make a new will and record it.

Limit Liabilities
No matter which spouse wants the divorce you need to limit your potential future liabilities. You will have to close joint accounts and credit cards and notify institutions with joint accounts that will remain open that they will need the approval of both spouses for a withdrawal. Do everything in writing or get a confirmation of your action.

Ready to Divorce?
If you are ready to divorce you will need to decide if you can do the paper work and file yourself or if you need to use a good attorney. If you try the do-it-yourself route you can still go to an attorney for advice and to see if you are doing it correctly or if you get in over your head retain an attorney to complete the divorce process. Many divorces require a good divorce attorney to reach a fair and equitable outcome. To review these two areas use the tabs on the left hand side of the page.

Completing the Divorce Process
To move forward with your divorce just use the tabs on the left as your guide. This site provides an overview of divorce. Your divorce will be unique to you and your spouse. There is no one size fits all option available. The purpose of this site is to assist you with the journey and ease a very difficult process and time in your life. But never lose track of the fact that no one can look out for your interests better than you can. When you don’t know what to do seek out the sound advise of experienced professionals. Think really carefully about the decisions you are about to make. These decisions will have a life long effect on you and those around you. When making these important decisions don’t let your emotions overrule commonsense and rational thinking. Good luck on this journey! I made it once myself. I survived, I grew, I moved on to a new and really good life that I’m thankful for everyday.