Divorce is a serious and often painful process that should not be taken lightly, especially if children are involved. The following articles are intended to help anyone considering divorce to make an informed decision. This section includes information on options open to married couples considering splitting, including divorce as well as other options, such as annulment and legal separation. It also includes information to help you decide whether you should hire a divorce lawyer, basics on what divorce can and can’t do for you, including division of property and child custody issues, important factors to consider before filing for divorce, and how to get started if you decide divorce is the right course of action. For basics on the divorce process, including a glossary of divorce terms, see the articles in this section.
What Can a Divorce Do?
A divorce can’t resolve all your family issues. It’s only a civil legal process that determines who gets what from the marital property and how any children will be cared for after separation. However, a divorce can’t resolve the pain of splitting up, possibly under less than comfortable circumstances, such as when there was an affair or the death of a child. Learn more about divorce options by reading the article on what divorce can do.
What Is Legal Separation?
Maybe an option other than divorce is appealing to you and your spouse. While many couples stop living together at some point before divorcing and consider this “separation,” it’s not the same thing as legal separation. Legal separation is like a divorce. You generally need to file a petition for a legal separation and go to court, but then you’re no longer responsible for the other spouse. However, you aren’t technically divorced. This may be important for religious or financial reasons. Read more about legal separation and the differences between it and divorce in this section.
What Is an Annulment?
Unlike a divorce, an annulment is a declaration that a marriage was never technically valid. You could be able to avoid some of the difficulties of divorcing by getting your marriage annulled. For example, the couple could have married while they were still minors and didn’t get proper consent from one or both parents. Instead of making these young, former lovebirds go through the divorce process, the marriage can be voided or annulled.
There are different legal grounds for annulment, such as fraud, impotence, mental illness, and more, and these grounds vary by state. To determine if you’re eligible for an annulment or if a divorce would better suit your needs, so you can get marital property for example, see the articles on annulment law.
Considering Whether to Divorce
Before making the decision to divorce, it may be wise to try marital counseling, speak with supportive family members, and understand the emotional consequences for your children, if any. Sometimes a divorce is the best option, for example, when one spouse is abusive to the other spouse or children. Other times, a friendly, but platonic marriage works for a while, such as until the children are out of school or until one spouse can get their citizenship finalized. If you have family based immigration questions, check out FindLaw's immigration section.
Getting Legal Help
If you’ve read about divorce and still have questions, you should speak to an experienced local divorce lawyer. A good attorney will explain your rights and options so you can make an informed decision.