Qualifications for Divorce

by Wayne Thomas
Most states require one spouse to be a resident to qualify for divorce.

Most states require one spouse to be a resident to qualify for divorce.

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Divorcing couples often hope for a quick, painless divorce. However, even in cases where spouses can agree, various procedural steps can cause a divorce to move at what may feel like a snail's pace. Although states can vary, knowing at the outset the most common qualifications for obtaining a divorce will help you avoid unnecessary setbacks.

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Residency Requirements

You must meet the state-specific residency requirement before you may file for a divorce. Many states mandate that either you or your spouse live in the state for a period leading up to filing, such as six months. Some states offer a reduced residency period if you were married in the state or if your reason for divorce -- also known as the grounds for divorce -- occurred locally. An example might be if you plan on filing on grounds of adultery and your spouse cheated on you in the state you wish to file in.

Divorce Grounds

All states allow no-fault grounds for divorce. This means that you no longer need to prove that your spouse's actions were the reason your marriage collapsed. However, some states require that you and your spouse first live separate and apart for a period, such as 12 months, before requesting the divorce. Different requirements may apply if you plan to file under traditional fault grounds. For example, for the fault ground of commission of a felony, some states require that your spouse be confined to a prison facility for a specific period of time.

Filing Process

Before a judge will grant your divorce, you must follow the appropriate steps for filing. Most states require that one spouse submit a written divorce request called a complaint, and have a copy delivered by a sheriff to the other spouse. The non-filing spouse must also submit a timely written response, known as an answer. Failure to follow these specific rules can result in your case being delayed, so many spouses choose to obtain the assistance of an attorney or an online legal document provider during the process.

Waiting Period

Some states impose mandatory waiting periods on all couples before a divorce will be granted. This is true, even if all of your paperwork is in order and you otherwise qualify for divorce. States can vary regarding the time period, which can be up to 180 days if you have children. In some cases, these periods can be waived or reduced if you can demonstrate a particular hardship. However, waiting periods generally apply, regardless of whether you and your spouse agree on all major terms of your divorce.