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How Filing for a Divorce Differs in Different States


This news story was published on November 25, 2020.
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Divorce is a stressful and upsetting time for anyone. Not only does it come with an emotional burden, but organizing the legal side is very trying, especially when your spouse is living in a different state. The reason divorcing someone who lives in a different state is so difficult is not only due to the distance, but the differences between state laws. This guide gives an overview of how divorce laws differ from state to state. 

How Divorce Laws Can Differ

There are a range of ways in which the differences in divorce laws can impact individuals differently. These include: 

  • Process serving requirements
  • Cooling off periods
  • Property distribution 
  • Filing fees
  • Child custody laws
  • Alimony and child support 
  • Grounds for divorce
  • Marriage dissolution 

No-Fault Divorce States

No-fault divorce law allows for the dissolution of a marriage without requiring evidence of wrongdoing by either party involved. The most famous example of a no-fault state for divorce law is Florida. The reason Florida is so famous for this divorce law, is because unlike the majority of no-fault states, it does not have a fault option. This means that someone who is looking for a divorce law firm in Orlando Florida would be under no obligation to provide evidence that the other party has breached the marriage contract. Apart from Florida, other examples of no-fault divorce states include: 

  • Iowa 
  • Wisconsin
  • Oregon 
  • Washington 
  • Nevada 
  • Nebraska
  • Montana 
  • Missouri 
  • Minnesota 
  • Michigan 
  • Kentucky 
  • Kansas 
  • Indiana 
  • Hawaii
  • Colorado 
  • California 

Most other American states offer both a fault and no-fault divorce option. This means that a party who is looking to get a divorce based on a fault claim is obliged to both provide a reason for the marital collapse and prove that the other person was at fault. Examples of traditional grounds for a fault-based divorce include adultery, cruelty, and desertion. Grounds for fault divorces differ greatly from state to state, from ‘habitual intemperance’ in Idaho, to three years desertion in Maine. 

Along with the fault and no-fault divorce laws, some states offer an additional cause of divorce — separation. States that have a separation fault option allow couples that have been living apart or are separated for a period of time to be granted a divorce on this basis alone. The states that have a separation divorce clause include:

  • Connecticut
  • Washington 
  • Hawaii 
  • Kentucky
  • Montana
  • Nevada 
  • Wisconsin

The Cooling Off Period 

The term ‘cooling off period’ refers to the period of mandatory waiting time that is needed before a divorce can be legally finalized. The purpose of this period is to allow for a reconciliation. The length of cooling off period differs greatly from state to state. 

For example, California has the longest cooling off period. It takes a total of six months and one day before a divorce can be finalized. The cooling off period in Iowa is 90 days. In some states, the length of the cooling off period depends on whether the couple have children or not. In Idaho, the cooling off period is 20 days but can be extended to 90 days when the couple have children. Some states have no cooling off period at all. States that do not have a cooling off period include: New Jersey, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Nevada, Georgia and Montana. 

How Filing Fees Vary from State to State

Filing fees, the fees that you need to pay in order to have your case heard in court, also differ from state to state. The states with the highest filing fees are: 

  1. California: fees range from $430 to $450 
  2. Minnesota: fees range from $390 to $420 
  3. Florida: fees range from $350 and $410 
  4. Utah: fees range from $310 and $330 
  5. Louisiana: fees range from $200 and $450 

The states with the lowest filing fees include: 

  1. Mississippi: fees range from $50 to $75 
  2. Wyoming: fees are usually set at $70 
  3. North Dakota: fees are set at $80 
  4. South Dakota: fees are set at $95 
  5. District of Columbia: fees are set at $120 

Keep in mind that these are on top of hourly lawyer fees, too. 

Legal Separation

The majority of states, including Iowa, offer an option for couples to legally separate. Legal separation, also called separation maintenance law, asks the court to decide on divorce-related issues likes custody, child support, property division and alimony, but it does not legally terminate a marriage. Unlike divorce, legal separation is not permanent, which means that there is the option for couples to reconcile their relationship at a later date. States that do not offer the option of legal separation include: 

  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia 
  • Mississippi
  • Pennsylvania 
  • Texas

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