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When marriages come to an end, personal, financial and legal problems come to a head. The husband and wife must decide how to handle the property and money accumulated, along with the children produced in the marriage. Disputes carry the potential of becoming tense.

Divorce is the legal mechanism by which married partners dissolve their union. Having a judge sever the ties in many cases doesn’t end the process. With all of the remaining questions that may follow, having good legal representation can help you prepare for a fresh start following a period of personal and legal turmoil.

How Do I Get a Divorce?

To obtain a judgment of divorce, the first thing you need to do is file a divorce petition with the court. A divorce petition is a set of forms that will state the grounds for the divorce. By filling out these forms, you are essentially asking the court to end your marriage. Although the process is a lot easier than people think, there are many benefits to seeking professional legal advice. Having a divorce attorney near you will help ensure the form is filled out properly, which is extremely important. While you don’t have to prove fault, a divorce proceeding may involve child custody, alimony and division of property. If you don’t ask the court to divide the property (equitable distribution) or alimony, getting the divorce may prevent you from requesting equitable distribution later on.

Fault vs. No-Fault

The difference between a fault and a no fault divorce is the grounds for the divorce. In a fault divorce, the spouse filing the petition claims the other spouse is responsible for destroying the marriage, while in the other case no blame is placed on either party.

A no-fault divorce simplifies the process of declaring the end of a marital relationship. In a no-fault divorce, you don’t need to prove any misconduct, such as adultery or abuse, by your spouse. In many states, a period of separation (such as one year) is the prerequisite for a divorce. Other states allow spouses to forego being apart for the minimum period if they agree to it, have no children, and prepare a written legal separation agreement that divides the matrimonial estate.

Can I Get My Marriage Annulled?

When you request that a judge annul the effect of a wedding, it means you want it declared to have never happened. Generally, proof that your purported husband or wife lied about circumstances such as not already being married, was impotent at the time the vows were taken, or is too closely related to you can serve as the basis for an annulment.

An annulment means more than dissolving the union. With the matrimonial relationship having never been legally created in the first place, the parties normally do not have property to divide and there is no right to seek or get support. Often, child custody does not appear in these types of lawsuits because they tend to happen soon after the wedding ceremony.

What Matters Arise in a Divorce Lawsuit?

In a true uncontested divorce, you have already resolved questions such as who gets the marital home, how you divide the marital assets and who will assume custody of the children. As such, an uncontested divorce shows itself to be simple. Often though, these disagreements survive into the lawsuit and the divorce is not a quick affair.

Qualified Domestic Relations Orders

A top lawyer in your area specializing in divorce law will need to know about you and the opposing party’s finances, employment, income and property. With information on the opponent’s job, a divorce lawyer can get your interest in the opposing party’s 401(k) plan. In orders known as “qualified domestic relations orders,” the parties’ respective 401(k) plans distribute the opposing spouse’s interest to some account or directly to that opposing party.

Splitting the 401(k) is part of equitable distribution, a judicial division of the property the couple acquired while married and before splitting. In a disagreement over who gets the residence, the judge considers a number of factors, such as who contributed to improvements. Including equitable distribution in the lawsuit may carry a high but necessary cost, especially if your lawyer must hire an appraiser or similar expert to value property to be divided.


Alimony represents another of the financial issues involved in divorce. One party may assume the role of primary, if not exclusive, income earner. The non-working party depends on the working one to maintain a particular standard of living. Dependent parties bring these spousal support claims against the other party to blunt the financial impacts of ending the relationship. Judges contemplate the length of the claimant’s dependence on the supporting party, how much the dependent party requires to maintain a reasonable standard of living, the amount of time needed for the dependent party to become self-sustaining and who was a fault in causing the bonds to disintegrate.

Prenuptial Agreements

If you entered into a prenup agreement, experienced legal counsel can prove to be invaluable because such a premarital agreement will determine how to distribute the property. The attorney also can examine if you have grounds to contest its validity should you not want to follow it.

Postnuptial Agreements

A postnuptial agreement is a written agreement that happens after marriage which addresses details such as who gets the house, various vehicles, other personal items and the children, if any. Parties can decide how to allocate credit card and other debts. Usually, the party getting the home will also refinance the property or otherwise ensure that the other party’s name is removed from the mortgage.

Child Custody

Children born to the husband and wife may become subjects in the divorce proceeding of a custody battle. A judge decides who gets custody of the children, the terms and conditions of that custody and the times and days of visitation for the non-custodial parent. Rulings reflect what the judge concludes to be the best interest of the child, with relevant factors including the behavior of the parties as parents. During the custody hearing, the lawyers may hire experts in parenting, child psychology or mental health to aid the judge in making a custody ruling. Since a custody trial can tax a high emotional as well as financial cost, the legal system often requires the parties to give mediation a chance to settle the matter.

Child Support

Child support accompanies child custody litigation. Setting how much the obligor must pay involves calculating the income of the parties and their respective proportions. Most states employ guidelines that determine the monthly payment based on income and the number of children.

Do I Need a Property Settlement Agreement?

A top local attorney who is experienced in domestic matters can talk to you about the benefits of a property settlement agreement. If you and the other party can find common ground, a separation agreement or property settlement agreement works as an affordable alternative to protracted litigation.

How Do I Find a Divorce Attorney?

To find top rated attorneys near you specializing in family and divorce law, you can start by searching online. Most law firms have websites and listings on various search engines. You’ll see their experience, what they specialize in, the services they provide, whether you can get a free consultation and, in some cases, their results. Pages with reviews and ratings of experienced local lawyers can help you find excellent legal assistance. During the initial consultation, the lawyer will explain the hourly rates and other fees for representation.

When choosing a family law attorney, you want a professional who specializes in the field and is aggressive in defending or advocating for your rights. The best legal services should also provide honest and excellent advice — even if you do not like what the lawyer recommends. Divorce law carries a high level of emotion and personal stress. Although understandable, these feelings should not cloud your judgment. An attorney who understands your pain, yet can guide you through the litigation, mediation and negotiation of divorce cases will serve you well.

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