Overview of the Divorce Legal System

Even though the relationship between you and your spouse has changed and you may no longer be living together, until you are legally divorced, you are still married. The legal ramifications of being married vary from state to state, but generally speaking, until you are divorced you and your spouse have certain rights to each other’s money, deferred compensation, pensions, insurance benefits, real estate, and other property. In general, until you are divorced not only can you not remarry but also anything you obtain may be subject to a claim of ownership, in whole or in part, by your spouse, and the future ownership of assets and property already obtained may be unclear. Even if you have a prenuptial agreement, your spouse may succeed in having it declared invalid. In short, the potential to lose things you think are yours remains until the divorce is final and/or all appeals have been exhausted. This is a very important fact to keep this in mind throughout your separation.

State laws, federal laws, code, and guidelines are the ground rules of separation and divorce. For example: the law specifying what you or your spouse must prove to be entitled to varies from state to state. Some states require proof of certain "grounds," such as adultery while other states have "no-fault" divorces. Some states require the two parties to live separately (and under specific conditions) for a certain period of time. All states have unique residency requirements. These few examples are touching the surface of what can make the process of divorce more complicated than one might expect.



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