Frequently Asked Questions “DIVORCE”

What is “dissolution of marriage?”

Divorce is the commonly used term for the legal process known as Dissolution of Marriage.  It is the process by which the parties are restored to the legal status of single persons, and their rights with respect to child custody, child and spousal support, and the characterization, valuation and distribution of assets and debts, among other things, are determined.

How long does a divorce take?

A divorce is begun by the filing of a Summons and Petition, which must then be served on the opposing party.  The earliest possible date you can be restored to the status of a single person is six months and one day after the Summons and Petition are served.  However, nothing happens automatically.  Certain procedural steps must be followed before a divorce is final.  How long it takes to go through those procedural steps depends on the complexity of the case, the number issues in dispute and the cooperation of the parties and their attorneys.

Do I have to go to court to get divorced?

No.  It is possible to get divorced without going to court.  A settlement of some or all issues can be negotiated between the parties themselves, or through their respective attorneys.  If both parties agree, they can use the process of mediation to arrive at a mutually agreeable settlement.

Does my spouse get half my retirement?

When you marry, it is almost like a corporation is formed, which is called “the community.”  From the date of marriage to the date of separation, with some limited exceptions (such as gift or inheritance), all assets acquired are community assets and all debts incurred are community debts, all of which are subject to division when you divorce.  In general, to the extent that retirement benefits are earned between the date of marriage and the date of separation, a court will divide the benefits equally.

Who pays my attorney fees?

In general when you hire an attorney, you sign a contract to pay the attorney fees and costs incurred on your behalf yourself.  However, depending on the relative financial circumstances of the parties, the one in the superior financial position may be ordered to pay some or all of the other party’s attorney fees, either to the opposing attorney or reimbursing the other party for fees already paid.  A party can be ordered to contribute to the other party’s attorney fees while the divorce is pending, at the end of the process, or both.