It's understandable that sitting down with a divorce lawyer can leave you feeling awash in new terms. In order to have an easier time comprehending what's going, you should familiarize yourself with some of the basic concepts a divorce attorney will use. Here are four of the biggest ones every client should know.
Although at-fault divorce still is on the books in some states, the reality is that the no-fault system is pretty much the law of the land now. No-fault divorce means the court has zero interest in hearing about who did what, such as cheating or mismanaging the family's finances. Only one partner has to say they're done with the marriage, and the only justification they have to provide is to state that there are irreconcilable differences.
Sometimes referred to as alimony, spousal support is the obligation of a more financially advantaged partner to ensure a stable transition out of the marriage. Many factors can play into support obligations, including whether one partner worked while the other got an education, thus entitling them to a greater return on support. Lifetime support is becoming much less common, with courts favoring formulas that take into account how long the marriage was. Only a long marriage, one lasting at least 10 to 20 years, is likely to give rise to a life-long spousal support order.
In the strictest sense, most states treat child support as a separate issue unless the two partners include it in a divorce agreement. A separate family court or domestic relations section hearing will be scheduled, and support will be determined using one of three common formulas. The income shares model is the most widely used, where the child receives the same level of parental financial support they did during the marriage. Some states use a percentage of income, and there are also models that account for each parent's basic needs.
Distribution of Property, Assets and Debts
Ending a marriage is a bit like closing up a company in the sense that property, assets and debts need to be dealt with. The majority of states use the equitable distribution model where the judge makes a decision based on the facts of the case. Community property states provide as close to a 50-50 split as possible. Decisions in both instances only involve assets accumulated during the marriage, although some allowances may be made based on prenuptial agreements.
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