Divorce isn’t easy for anyone involved, and because of the variations in the law from one state to the next, can be incredibly complicated. Knowing what the laws are in the state you live in (or the state your soon-to-be ex lives in can help you decide the best way to proceed with filing.
Where You Should File for Divorce
You must file for divorce in the state you live in. If you and your spouse live in different states as a result of the pending divorce, your spouse may file in that state. However, it’s worth noting that residency requirements also vary by state, so if you move to a new state, you may have a certain amount of time to wait before you become eligible to file. Divorce in California, for instance, requires at least one spouse to be a resident of the state for six months, or 180 days prior to filing.
Requirements for Divorce
Each state has their own requirements for filing divorce papers and serving your spouse.
Some states, such as North and South Carolina, require you to live separate and apart from your spouse for a period of one year and one day prior to filing for the divorce. The legal separation period begins on the date the two of you decide to live apart and have no intention of resuming the marriage.
In North Carolina, you file a complaint with the court. After service, which notifies your spouse of your intent to dissolve the marriage, he or she will have 30 days to file a response before a court date will be given to declare the divorce final.
In South Carolina, you must wait the year if you are filing a no-fault divorce. It takes three months after the paperwork is filed and both parties have signed to get a court date for a hearing. But, if you are seeking a divorce based on fault grounds, you can request a hearing 90 days after you file.
In Arkansas, if you want a no-fault divorce, you must live in separate households for 18 months. In Illinois, you must be separated for six months. Attempts to reconcile by cohabitating will not stop the separation period from running (this is not the case in all states.) In Louisiana, you must be separated 180 days, unless you have children then it must be 365.
In some states, however, it is possible to divorce your spouse while the two of you still live together. These states include: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Washington D.C., Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, and several others. States like Delaware and Georgia require that you do not engage in sexual activity or present yourselves as a couple.
Your state may also have laws about dating during the separation period, which could affect your final hearing if your spouse wishes to contest the filing.
Fault vs. No-Fault
Some states still recognize at-fault divorces, but it is often easier to adhere to requirements for a no-fault divorce. You must prove the spouse to be at fault for the divorce, which can be difficult to do in many cases. The main difference is an at-fault divorce stops the spouse proven at fault from being able to receive alimony.
Cost of Divorce
Each state will also have different fees required to file the paperwork, though some do allow for those fees to be waived based on income. These fees don’t consider costs associated with hiring a lawyer to represent you. Divorce in some states comes with a fairly hefty price tag.
Whether you plan to handle your divorce yourself or hire an attorney to do it for you, making sure you understand the law in your state is critical ensuring things run as smoothly as possible.