Divorce Law of course, covers the divorces and their aftermaths. A divorce is the legal termination or dissolution of a marriage. Divorce law deals with the laws and issues surrounding divorce, including alimony, child support, child visitation, and division of assets. Divorce laws vary by state. There are two types of divorce: Fault and No Fault. Alternatives to divorce include annulment and legal separation.

Community Property States:

For purposes of distributing assets after a divorce, many states are community property states, meaning both the husband and wife equally own all money earned by either one of them from the beginning of the marriage until the date of separation. In addition, all property acquired during the marriage with community money is deemed to be owned equally by both the wife and husband, regardless of who purchased it. The separation date is important in this analysis, as it is the last day when property is considered "community." Debts work the same way as assets any debt accrued during the marriage belongs to both husband and wife equally. Each spouses 50 percent ownership interest in community property includes equal rights of management and control. There are ten community property states, including California.

Equitable Distribution:

Most states employ equitable distribution in dividing marital property. Instead of an even split, as in community property states, equitable distribution looks at the financial situation that each spouse will be in after the termination of the marriage. Factors considered in equitable distribution include the earning power of the spouses, separate property of the spouses, the value that one spouse contributed as the homemaker, the duration of the marriage, the age and health of the spouses, marital infidelity, and who had the children, among others.

Fault Divorce:

A fault divorce is one in which one party blames the other for the failure of the marriage by citing wrongdoing. Fault divorces are most common where abuse is a factor. Abandonment, desertion, inability to engage in sexual intercourse, insanity, and imprisonment are other causes for fault divorces. In many states, the waiting period is shorter for fault divorces.

Legal Separation:

A legal separation is a finding by a court that the conditions or circumstances of a marriage make it intolerable for the parties to live together but that the marriage itself should be maintained. In general, couples who legally separate can either agree to separate voluntarily and draw up a formal agreement or one or both spouses can petition the court for a legal separation. Generally, legal separations may be granted up to one to two years, depending on the state. At any time during the legal separation, either party can ask for a divorce.

Marital Separation Agreement:

A marital settlement agreement spells out the terms of the divorce and the relationship between the two spouses after the divorce. These agreements usually cover property division, child custody and child plans, debt division, spousal support, and any other relevant issues related to the divorce.

No Fault Divorce:

No fault divorce is where neither spouse is considered responsible for the breakup of the marriage and neither spouse has to prove that the other spouse did something wrong. Any numbers of reasons can be grounds, including irretrievable breakdown, irreconcilable differences, or incompatibility. This is the most common type of divorce.

Separate Property:

In community property states, this is the property that is considered separate, i.e. belonging to only one spouse. This usually includes anything owned prior to marriage, inheritances, and anything a spouse earned after the date of separation. Educational loans can also count as "separate" debts, owned by only one spouse.

Uncontested Divorce:

An uncontested divorce is a proceeding in which a person sued for divorce does not fight it and instead reaches an agreement with the spouse during the proceedings. In these cases, the terms of the divorce are agreed upon by both parties. Uncontested divorces are generally much more amicable and economical than other types of divorce.


Abandonment occurs when a spouse ends cohabitation without justification, without the consent of the other spouse, and without the intent of renewing cohabitation. In many states, to be legally considered abandonment, the spouse has to leave for at least a year.


An annulment treats a marriage as though it never existed, erasing it from the outset, thus a divorce is not necessary. In general, annulments are only granted if the marriage was short and are primarily concerned with marriages built on deception or fraud. Annulments can also be granted where one of both of the parties were minors, or in cases of incest.


Alimony is payments for the support and maintenance of a spouse, either by lump sum or on a continuing basis. Alimony is paid by the supporting spouse to the dependent spouse. In some states, if the dependent spouse committed adultery, that spouse is not entitled to alimony. The factors that courts consider when granting alimony vary by state. Most states consider such factors as the length of the marriage, the conduct of the parties during the marriage, the age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, estate, liabilities and needs of each of the parties and the opportunity of each for future acquisition of capital assets and income. Courts generally also consider the contribution of each of the parties in the acquisition, preservation or appreciation in value of their respective estates and the contribution of each of the parties as a homemaker to the family unit. Alimony can continue indefinitely, until death or remarriage, or can be set for a fixed period of time.

Child Support:

Child Support is payment from one spouse to another for support of the children after a divorce or separation. Normally, child support stops when a child turns 18 years old, unless the child is still a full-time student. If the child is a full-time student, the child support can continue until the child turns 21 years old. Child support cannot be discharged in bankruptcy and is not considered as income by the receiving parent or as a tax deduction by the paying parent. The federal government requires all states to adopt child support guidelines. The formula takes into consideration custody arrangements, how much parenting time each parent has, the income of the parents, the total number of children, unusual medical expenses, day care expenses, and insurance, among other factors.. The result of the computation is called the "basic" support amount, which can be adjusted by the court based on several unusual items. Many states have child support enforcement divisions, which can help get child support by bringing actions in court to get child support orders, locating deadbeat parents and getting their income and employment information.

Child Support Order:

A Child Support Order is a document from a court that states when, how often, and how much a parent is to pay for child support.


Legal custody allows one or both parents to make decisions regarding the child's health, education and welfare.

Joint Custody:

When the parents have joint legal custody and time with the child will be shared or equally.

Physical Custody:

Physical Custody gives one parent primary control of the day to day activities regarding the child and is often awarded to the parent who has the child in their custody a majority of the time.

Sole Custody:

If a parent has sole custody, he or she takes care of the child most of the time and makes the major decisions about the child, include education, health care, religious training, and extracurricular activities.

Domestic Violence Restraining Order:

A domestic violence restraining order is a piece of paper, signed by a judge, which prohibits an abuser from contacting or coming near you. A domestic violence restraining order is granted by the family law court. A domestic violence restraining order can order an abuser not to contact you, to stay a specified distance from you, your home, school, work or your children's school, to move out of your home, and to return items of your personal property to you. In general, you can qualify for a domestic violence restraining order if the abuser caused or attempted to cause injury to you or to sexually assault you, or if the abuser threatened to harm you and there is reason to believe that he or she will carry out those threats.

Prenuptial Agreement:

A prenuptial agreement, or premarital agreement, is a contract made between prospective spouses that takes effect upon marriage. A typical prenuptial agreement may contract for a predetermined division of assets, arrangement of alimony or other support, and/or allocation of attorney's fees associated with the termination of marriage A prenuptial agreement must be in writing, contain a full disclosure of assets before the marriage, and be signed by both husband and wife.