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Family Law - Filing For a Divorce When Your Spouse Doesn't Want One

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Introduction

Obtaining a divorce is almost always a difficult and complex process. This is especially compounded in the situation where the desire to divorce is not mutual between partners. In the event that one spouse wants a divorce but the other does not, is a divorce allowed? And how does the couple proceed? The answer to these questions depends largely on whether the couple lives in a "no-fault" divorce or a "fault" divorce state.

"No-Fault" vs. "Fault" Divorce

Each state's divorce laws will vary in terms of the requirements for filing a divorce. In general, the basic idea is that in a no-fault state, one spouse may file a divorce even if neither of the parties has committed a wrongdoing. In an "at-fault", or simply "fault" divorce state, the filing spouse must state specific reasons why the judge will grant a divorce decree. Here are some more features of no-fault and fault-based divorce options:

"No-Fault" Divorce: The main feature of no-fault divorce is that the filing spouse does not need to prove any "fault" or wrongdoing on behalf of either person. They need not show any breach of a marital contract or transgressions of the law. However, some states require the filing spouse to state that the couple is "no longer compatible" or has "irreconcilable differences". Also some states require that the couple be living apart for a certain period of months or years before they can file for no-fault divorce.

"Fault" Divorce: In this type of divorce, the spouse filing for divorce needs to show the other spouse was at fault in some way, either by breaching a marital contract or by certain actions, which may include:

  • Marital unfaithfulness (adultery)
  • Cruel treatment such as infliction of physical pain or emotional suffering
  • Deserting the other spouse for a period of time
  • Being imprisoned for a specified length of time
  • Inability to physically consummate the marriage (if not communicated beforehand).

As you can see, it is generally much easier to file for divorce in a no-fault state.

Please take note that even if divorce has been filed in a no-fault state, it is common for the non-consenting spouse to take actions to delay the divorce proceedings. For example, they may refuse to sign required documents or even move their locations in order to make it difficult to contact them. So, while one spouse may be free to file the divorce papers, obtaining the actual divorce can be a lengthy process in itself.

Residency Requirement and Contestations

Whether the divorce is being made in a fault or no-fault state, one common administrative requirement is that the spouse who files for the divorce must establish that they are a resident of the state where they are filing at. The place of residence can make a huge difference as to the outcome of the case, since no-fault states are less strict than fault states with regards to their divorce requirements.

In addition to delaying the divorce process, the non-consenting spouse may often have the option to contest the divorce. This is usually the case in an at-fault state rather than a no-fault state. If the contestation is done in a fault state, the non-consenting spouse will usually have to show that they did not breach the marital contract or that they did not do the actions that place them at fault (such as adultery or cruelty). Many no-fault states do not allow the other spouse to contest a divorce once it has been filed.

More Issues- Notification and Publications

Another common issue that arises in non-consent cases is the issue of notification. All states require that the filing spouse employ their best efforts to notify the other spouse that they are filing for divorce. This is done by officially serving them papers which include notifications of the divorce. This gives them a chance to respond if contestation is allowed.

However, as mentioned before, it can often be the case that the other spouse cannot be contacted. This may happen for a variety of reasons; for example, if the spouse has moved and cannot be located. In such cases the courts allow what is called "notification by publication".

Notification by publication is where the courts allow a spouse to notify the other party that they have filed for divorce through a local publishing company, usually in the "divorce" section of a newspaper. The person must place the ad in the newspaper stating that they have filed for divorce, and the other party usually must be named. The person filing is required to wait for a period such as 30 days for the other spouse to respond.

If the non-consenting party does not respond to the publication, the filing party then obtains a letter from the newspaper verifying that the ad was in fact posted for the required time. The letter is submitted to a judge, who then continues with the proceedings. If the other party still has not responded, the judge will issue a default judgment, which will be sent to the other spouse. In such cases, the non-contesting spouse is not entitled to contest the default judgment, and the divorce will be final.

Conclusion- Some Points to Remember

As you have seen, filing for divorce is possible even if the other spouse does not consent. If you believe that you will be filing for divorce, it is in your best interest to retain a lawyer, who can assist you in preparing the necessary documents for filing in a timely manner. To recap, here are some points to remember when consulting with your lawyer:

• The biggest factor in filing for divorce is whether your state is a no-fault or a fault state. Check to see what type of state you live in and if there are any other additional restrictions

• If you live in a no fault state, inquire whether your state requires a period of separation before obtaining a no-fault divorce. New York is an example of a state that has such a requirement.

• Regardless of what type of state you live in, filing must be made in your state of residency in a timely manner

• The other party must be properly notified in order to be given an opportunity to respond or contest the filing if this is allowed.

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Divorce Doesn't Have to Destroy Your Kids - Guidelines For Divorcing and Divorced Parents

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The number of divorces has trebled over the past half century and is continuing to rise. The most recent figures from the Office for National Statistics reveal there were 313,600 marriages and 167,100 divorces in the UK during 2004, up from 305,900 marriages and 154,600 divorces in 2000. However, the fallout particularly on the financial side can be felt for years afterwards if the process is not managed properly from the outset.

The emotional aspects of separation can be difficult enough without having to address the minutiae of budgets, pensions, savings and investments. But it is vital to dedicate time to sorting out the financial details and seek professional advice or you could end up paying a heavier than expected price for the split.

People are planning for their divorces now both before and during their marriage and wealth protection is a whole new issue that needs to be considered.

This trend could be partly apportioned to last years high-profile litigations, known as the Miller and McFarlane cases, which redefined the concept of compensation where wives gave up good earning careers to have children and deal with the domestic side of the family.

In particular, the Miller case also demonstrated that even where a marriage did not last very long, this does not necessarily affect the principle of equal division of matrimonial assets.

Before potential financial settlements can be discussed, anyone considering filing for divorce needs to work out how much the divorce process itself will cost.

Any action will obviously depend on the individual circumstances of the case, but there are some general themes to bear in mind. The earlier you plan for a possible divorce the better. Taken to extremes, cynics - often including those who have been married and divorced before - argue that a pre-nuptial agreement is worth considering. While pre-nuptial agreements are not binding under British law, they are increasingly being given greater priority in court, after the Miller and McFarlane cases.

Even so, the vast majority of couples do not consider pre-nuptial contracts. For those who find themselves sadly overtaken by events it is important to build up a record of your partner's finances.

For couples with joint bank accounts or credit cards, both parties are jointly and severally liable for any outstanding debts. That means there is no splitting of the debt between couples on divorce and lenders reserve their legal right to pursue either or both parties for the entire debt, regardless of what the divorced couple may view as their share.

Banks can also freeze an account on the request of either party if there is a dispute. But if an account is not frozen, then the account's normal terms and conditions apply. For example, that means one partner can withdraw funds without the other's permission.

Any other action, such as changing the account to another type of account, can only be taken with the written agreement of both parties.

Two people are not jointly responsible for debts taken out in individual names just because they are married. The marriage has nothing to do with it. So, your partner could have a £10,000 loan in his name and you are not liable for it, he is. It depends whether or not you took out the debt in joint names. This is an important distinction to make.

However, it could get messy if you are both named on a mortgage and the deeds of the property and your partner cannot afford to pay a loan in his name. The creditors can then apply for a charge on his share of the equity in the property.

For example, this might have nothing to do with the wife if it is a loan to the husband's business but the family home could still be at risk.

There have been several court cases in recent years where banks have sought to repossess homes where wives have signed agreements for loans to their husband's business but subsequently denied having understood the consequences.

Most people's second-most valuable asset is their pension fund. Usually, this will be in the husband's name and, often, a non-earning wife may have little or no pension fund of her own.

However, there are also cases where the wife has access to a final salary or defined-benefit pension which might be far more valuable than a husband's money purchase or defined-contribution scheme and so could substantially alter the division of assets. Anyone involved in a divorce should be aware of the three main options facing them if a private pension pot has been built up.

The first possible arrangement is known as offsetting, where couples agree one party keeps the pension while the other gets the house, usually as a home for children. Although this can cause problems in the future as the person with the house still needs something to live on when they retire. You sign away those pension rights at your peril. The second option is known as ear-marking, where the parties agree that the individual with the pension will pay a percentage of it to the other party on retirement. The problem here is that in the meantime the person with the pension still has control of it and so this may not work out to the advantage of the other party. The third option, called pension splitting, is where the person with the pension allocates a part of it to the former partner and those assets are then transferred into a pension in the former partner's name. In the majority of cases, could be the most attractive solution as it gives the person acquiring the pension control and they are not reliant on their spouse for those pensions rights.

You may get shared additional state pension if you divorce or have your marriage annulled after December 2000 or if your civil partnership ends.

Often women are still reliant upon their husbands to provide for them in retirement. However, in the case of a divorce this can often leave the ex-wife with little or no pension provision.

Both parties should get their financial house in order as soon as possible and avoid attempting to conceal any assets as the process is based on both parties making full disclosure of their assets and liabilities.

The number of divorces where family wealth was split half and half between husband and wife more than doubled in 2005, up to 63 per cent of cases, against 30 per cent in the previous year, according to forensic accountants Grant Thornton.

Any assets transferred between husband and wife in the tax year of separation are free of capital gains tax (CGT). So, while January is a popular time for people to file for divorce for emotional reasons, financially April 6 may prove a wiser choice.

If you separate on April 1, you only have a small window of a few days before the end of the tax year and realistically you are not going to get everything sorted in that time. People may decide to wait until April 6 so you can benefit from the whole of the tax year to move assets around without the tax implications.

If either party has brought assets to the marriage, it is important that records are kept as it is possible that those assets may be ring-fenced and excluded from the settlement.

But if filing for divorce is the only option, taking time to plan the split and filing for divorce at the start of the tax year instead may be your best financial move.

Basic planning

  • Gather information and keep records of your partner's financial income, gains and assets
  • Don't tell the bank of a dispute as they may freeze the account, leaving you with no money to fight your corner
  • Keep records of your expenditure, to prove your standard of living
  • Check whether you should be entitled to some of your partner's pension

If you would like to find out more about the services that we provide, please visit our website http://www.mfgsolicitors.com to arrange a meeting.

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Family Law Attorneys are standing by call 1-800-564-2707

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