In some cases, getting a divorce is a smooth process; it’s simple, uncontested, and both parties are on board. However, for many, divorce is a long and complicated legal battle that can take a toll on your emotional and financial well-being. Regardless of the situation, being prepared and knowing what to expect can help minimize the stress of going through a divorce. That’s why we’ve put together this guide of what you need to know before getting a divorce.

Divorce Requirements

There are state laws for filing for a divorce that vary from state to state, but there are also some commonalities. In order to file for a divorce in most states, either you or your spouse must have lived in the state where you plan on filing for six months minimum before taking action.

In some states, the residency requirement is even longer; you may have to live in the state for a year or more before you can file. You will also need to decide on the grounds for your divorce. In every state, you can file for a no-fault divorce, which means that you don’t have to prove that your spouse did anything wrong and can simply cite irreconcilable differences. In some states, this is the only option. Most couples file for a no-fault divorce because it’s less contentious than other grounds. In some cases, couples can settle divorce out of court this way.

Grounds for Divorce

There are a few reasons you would need to file a fault-based divorce:

  • Adultery: If your spouse has had an affair.
  • Abandonment: If your spouse has left you for a significant period of time (usually a year or more).
  • Domestic violence: If you or your children have been the victims of physical or emotional abuse.
  • Mental illness or incapacity: If your spouse has a mental illness or is unable to make decisions due to cognitive impairment.

If you choose to file for a fault-based divorce, be prepared to back up your claims with evidence. This could include financial records, emails, text messages, or testimony from witnesses. You’ll also need to be prepared to spend more time and money on the divorce process if you choose to file for a fault-based divorce. You’ll need an attorney for divorce to help you navigate the process and build a strong case.

Common Issues When Filing for Divorce

There are numerous issues you’ll need to address when you and your partner go through a divorce, including:

  • Property division: You’ll need to divide up your assets and debts. This includes your house, cars, savings accounts, investments, and more.
  • Child custody and visitation: If you have children together, you’ll need to come to an agreement on who will have custody of the children and what the visitation schedule will be.
  • Child support: The non-custodial parent will typically be required to pay child support to the custodial parent.
  • Alimony: One spouse may be required to pay alimony (or spousal support) to the other after a divorce.

What Is an Equitable Division?

Most states use the equitable division method to divide property in a divorce. This means that the property is divided fairly, but not necessarily evenly. The court will consider a number of factors when determining what is fair, including:

  • The incomes and earning potential of each spouse
  • The standard of living during the marriage
  • The age and health of each spouse
  • The contribution of each spouse to the marriage (including homemaking and childrearing)
  • The length of the marriage
  • The value of the property
  • Any prior marriages of either spouse
  • Whether either spouse has a pending criminal case

To determine fairness, the judge will cross-reference the specific circumstances with the law and then make a decision.

What Is Community Property?

In community property states, the default rule is that all property acquired during the marriage is considered to be jointly owned by both spouses. This includes everything from the family home and cars to bank accounts and investments.

The main exception to this rule is for property that was acquired through inheritance or gift. Property that is solely owned by one partner doesn’t need to be divided during a divorce, which means that each spouse gets to keep whatever assets they owned before the marriage or received from a third party during the marriage. While this may seem simple, figuring out what counts as community property can sometimes be difficult.

For example, if one spouse uses inheritance to buy a house during the marriage, the courts will typically consider the house to be community property since it was purchased with joint funds. Similarly, if one spouse owns a business before the marriage and then uses joint funds to expand the business during the marriage, the courts will usually treat the expanded business as community property. 

How Long Does It Take to Get a Divorce?

According to research, 35% of divorces take over a year. Coupled with the time it takes to get over a divorce, the entire process can easily take two years or more. There are a number of factors that can affect the length of time it takes to get a divorce. If there are several disputes that need to be resolved, the process will take longer. If you and your spouse can’t come to an agreement on your own, you’ll likely need to go to court, which will add even more time to the process.

Additionally, if you live in a state with a mandatory waiting period, you’ll have to wait at least that long before you can file for divorce. Finally, keep in mind that it takes time to legally finalize a divorce, so even if you and your spouse are able to come to an agreement relatively quickly, it will still take a few months for the divorce to be official.


Divorce is a complicated and time-consuming process, so it’s important to be prepared before you start the process. Be sure to educate yourself on the laws in your state, as well as the different aspects of divorce, such as property division, child custody, and alimony. And if you have any questions, be sure to consult a divorce attorney to help you navigate the process.