Written by Avvo Staff

What are the possible outcomes of a divorce?

The possible outcomes of divorce can range from from simple and easy, to complex and challenging.

Before you begin your divorce, there are some things you should know about what to expect.

Drawing up a divorce petition

A divorce petition, also known as a divorce complaint, is the document you’ll use to start the divorce process.

In the petition, you set out your reasons for the divorce, as well as what you want in terms of child custody and property division.

It’s possible that you’ll get everything you ask for in the petition, but this doesn’t happen often.

Also, keep in mind that many states provide a divorce petition form that will help you make sure you don't forget any important information.

When you may not need a lawyer

There are a few different types of divorce.

Some of these types have a fairly smooth process like an online divorce that won’t require much help from a lawyer.

  • In an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse may have an “amicable parting,” where you agree on all terms. While a lawyer might not be needed, you may still want to talk to one to learn about your rights and discover any potential issues that may come up down the road.

  • In a no-fault divorce, neither party blames the other for the marriage's dissolution. Instead, the marriage is often ended due to "irreconcilable differences." You and your spouse may have already lived apart for a significant amount of time before a no-fault divorce occurs.

Still, even if you and your spouse do have a somewhat friendly parting, it’s always wise to talk to a lawyer to make sure you didn’t miss any important details.

Spouses can also come to an agreement with the help of a mediator. Instead of hiring two separate lawyers, they use a single individual to guide them towards acceptable terms. This mediators will not necessarily be a lawyer.

When a lawyer is necessary

If you anticipate a battle with your spouse, you’ll probably go through a contested divorce. You’ll want to get legal representation to help you come to an agreement on things like child custody, visitation, alimony, and division of property.

The contested divorce process will depend on several factors, such as whether there was a prenuptial agreement, where the children lived during the divorce process, how old the children are, and each spouse's monetary status. Local and state laws will also come into play.

Property division isn’t always equal in a contested divorce, but judges usually attempt to make things as fair as possible. This may mean that you receive both marital property and some non-marital property. (Marital property refers to items that you and your spouse own together, while non-marital property takes in items that technically belong to only one of you.)

Resolving a fault divorce

In a fault divorce, one spouse claims that the other one committed acts that led to the marriage's breakup. This act is frequently adultery, but may also be things like cruelty or abandonment.

If you become involved in a fault divorce, you may need a lawyer to help you prove that your spouse is guilty of what you accuse them of. Conversely, if you’re the accused party, a lawyer can help establish your innocence.

Preparing for the divorce process

You might wonder how long divorce takes and how much it will cost. Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to say. Divorces involve many different factors that can affect the cost and the time.

The cost of your divorce will ultimately depend on how much legal help you’ll need, as well as how much property you have at stake. Your lawyer can give you a general idea of what to expect during the process.

Keep in mind that even after you settle on divorce terms, some states will require you to wait for a specific period of time—usually a couple of months—before the divorce is finalized.

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