Legal Term Tuesday: Divorce

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Legal Term Tuesday: Divorce

Legal Term Tuesday: Divorce

Justin Lavelle
August 18, 2015

This is the latest entry in BeenVerified’s legal term library designed to help you better understand public record information, criminal records and related terminology. The information in this article is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

Whether a case for sorrow or relief, the dissolution of a marriage requires that one of the two parties involved need to file for divorce. A divorce is a legal decree that officially terminates a marriage. Divorce laws vary greatly from state to state to such a degree that we can’t cover all of the nuances here; but we can outline some of the basic terminology common to most proceedings.

According to The Free Dictionary by Farlex, divorce law provides for legal solutions for issues that the spouses are unable to resolve through mutual cooperation. This often involves the equitable division of property, spousal maintenance (in the form of alimony payments) and child custody and support issues.

State law holds jurisdiction over divorce proceedings and each state has a different process. In most states, divorce proceedings typically require a period of separation, which can last several months, in order to give the parties an opportunity to reconcile, according to Requirements for separation can be quite finicky from state to state and the spouses may need to attest to the fact that they have not shared the same bed from the date of separation in order to push the divorce through.

For some spouses, due to various reasons from religious beliefs to insurance or retirement purposes, a legal separation may be preferable to a formalized divorce. Such separations can be either informal or legally defined, according to The Law Dictionary but the primary thing to remember is that separated spouses are still married in the eyes of the law. This will impact each spouse’s behavior in a different way than if they were already divorced.

Once these technical issues are decided upon, the majority of divorce proceedings tend to focus on children and money. If one spouse earns significantly more than the other, provisions for ongoing spousal support, also referred to as alimony may be decided upon by the judge in the case. The judge will also decide on arrangements for child custody if the spouses cannot come to a mutually agreed decision on their own. This could involve shared custody or awarding one spouse full custody with limited or no rights to the other spouse, depending on the circumstances, such as if one spouse alleges fault for the divorce.

Like marriages, divorces become part of the public record. However in most states these records can be filed under seal if both parties agree and meet certain requirements, according to FindLaw.

In summary, divorces can be messy affairs, not least because of the highly individualized state divorce laws. Do your research and always consult with a professional before making any legal decisions about your marriage.


We’ll look at the individual elements of divorce, including child custody and child support, alimony and prenuptial agreements in future Legal Term Tuesday blogs.

Disclaimer: The above is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.