What is Family Court

What is Family Court (and Will You Have to Go There?)

Family law is just one small sector of the country’s legal system. But, family law is so prominent in the legal system, that “family courts” are found in every state. This article will explain what family court is, who goes there, and anything else you need to know about it. 

What is Family Court? 

Family court is a type of court that has limited jurisdiction related to familial legal matters. The history behind family court is based on “equity” law. Equity law is the legal concept that focuses on equitable remedies within civil matters. This means that your divorce settlement may not result in a 50/50 split among your assets. Instead, the court focuses on an equitable division of your property. For custody, family court focuses primarily on the best interest of the child. Again, this means that a 50/50 parenting time is not guaranteed in family court. 

Another common term for family court you may hear is “domestic relations” or “domestic courts.” 

What type of cases does family court deal with? 

Family court covers more than just divorce. Other areas of law that family law covers are: 

  • Adoption 
  • Foster care 
  • Domestic Violence and Orders of Protection 
  • Guardianship (some states leave this to probate court; others include it in their family law division) 
  • Juvenile Delinquency 
  • Paternity 
  • Divorce 
  • Child Support 
  • Spousal Support 

The most common cases in family court are divorce, support issues, custody issues, and domestic violence.

Divorce is a broad umbrella term. Family courts have the authority to determine custody arrangements, support, and property division between you and your Soon-to-Be-Ex in a divorce case.  

What happens in family court?

Every state has a bit of a different process depending on the type of case, but there are common threads as to what you should expect in family court. 

In Illinois, for example, there are essentially three types of court dates you can attend. The first is a “status.” A status is a quick check-in with the judge. Your attorney may not even have you attend a status date. Status dates are for the judge to know any important updates on the case, and if there are any motions that need to be heard in the near future. A status can be as quick as five minutes in front of a judge. No ruling or judgment is made during a status.

To learn more about divorce in Illinois, read this piece, “6 Essential Things to Know About Divorce in Illinois.”

A “hearing” is a more formal proceeding in front of the judge. For example, you and your spouse may be in a disagreement about who should keep the family house. If you cannot settle or negotiate it out of court, you would have a hearing about it where you would present your case and your spouse would present his* case. Then, the judge would make a ruling on that issue. There can be witnesses and evidence in a hearing as well, but that is not always the case. It depends on the issue and the level of complexity of the issue itself. 

Hearings last around an hour to two hours. At the end of the hearing, the judge will make a ruling just on the matter that the hearing was about, nothing else within your divorce. 

Then, there’s a trial. A trial covers every issue you and your spouse have not agreed upon. Trials are lengthy and expensive. But, if there isn’t an agreement that you are comfortable with, you are entitled to a trial. At the end of the trial, the judge will decide the terms of your divorce settlement. The same goes for trials related to parenting issues. A common legal issue that goes to trial in family court is relocation. Relocation is where after a divorce, you want to move out of state with you and your husband’s child. 

There are other terms and types of court dates and appearances that your attorney may mention throughout your divorce. In Illinois, for example, the final court date that finalizes your divorce is called a “Prove Up.” Here, the judge will grant you and your spouse your divorce and lay out the terms of your agreement to make sure that you and your spouse understand. After that court date and the judge signs off on your divorce agreement, congratulations, you are divorced!

You may also hear the term “Pre-Trial Conference” throughout your divorce journey as well. A pre-trial conference is a great tool that your lawyer may want to use. During these conferences, your attorney, your spouse, their attorney, and the judge talk about the issues specific to your divorce. The judge does not make any type of ruling, but instead, tells the attorneys what their ruling most likely would be. This is a useful tool because it could save you court time and costs. If your attorney knows what the judge would most likely rule, they can make strategic decisions based off of that to help you and your Soon-to-Be-Ex settle or avoid going back to court. 

Something else to note about family court is that there is very rarely a jury in any type of divorce case. This means that the judge decides the terms of your settlement if you and your Soon-to-Be-Ex cannot. 

Does every divorce go to family court? 

No. There are ways to avoid going to court. Read about the 4 Types of Divorce to understand which model might be best for you.  For example, you and your spouse and your lawyers can endeavor to negotiate an “Uncontested Divorce.” (Check out our post on how to find a good divorce lawyer here.) You could also use mediation or a collaborative divorce, where you and your spouse work things out without getting a judge involved. With mediation, for example, meetings include you, your spouse, and a neutral third party – the mediator. You and your spouse can settle disputes, and the mediator is there to make sure things do not get too heated. This can save money. Plus, you get to be in a little more control of your settlement. Mediation is particularly good if you believe you and your spouse can come to an amicable agreement. 

If you wonder what else you must know and what else you should be doing as a woman preparing for divorce, we urge you to stay committed to you and read “Your 55 Must-Do’s on Your Modern Divorce Checklist.”


Family court covers a wide variety of civil cases, but since you are here on our website SAS for Women, chances are you are dealing with divorce in some way.  Just know, you may never go to family court, or you may go just once, or you may be in court for a week for trial. It’s also important to understand that family court was created for a reason, often to protect women and in particular the rights of children. You can read more about divorce laws and their history in the United States here; while this article, in particular, gives you a synopsis of what to expect when you go to court, and how to avoid going to court during your divorce process. 


Alexa Valenzisi is a 3L student in Chicago who is committed to child law and education law. She aims to work in education law or family law after graduation. 

Whether you are thinking about divorce, dealing with it, or recreating the life you deserve, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do it alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oftentimes complicated experience of breaking up and reinventing. 

SAS offers all women six free months of email coaching, action plans, checklists, and support strategies for you — and your precious future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

*We support same-sex marriages. For the sake of simplicity in this article, however, we refer to your spouse as your “husband” or a “he.”

4 Things to Help You Heal from Divorce

4 Things to Help You Heal from Divorce

There are 4 things that can help you heal from a divorce. You may be laughing as you read that, feeling like you are not in need of reading this post. Why? Because you are feeling peace as you say goodbye to your old way of life. As you look toward your future, you might even be excited to be welcoming new routines, new people, and new beginnings. And yet … slow down. There are probably other parts of you that are not in sync with any kind of “moving on.” These other parts keep reviewing all that you could have done to save your marriage, or they may be focused on blame, how your Ex did you wrong and how you will never get over it.

It’s natural to not feel resolved or 100 percent reconciled in this new place you find yourself, divorced and now, a single woman. You’ve only signed a legal document, your divorce agreement – a pile of papers that bear no connection to your shifting, internal world of feelings. A lot of people watching you don’t understand this at all. They think now that you’ve signed your agreement, it means you are finished, complete, a whole new person. So, you’ll have to forgive these people and what they say, those who want the best for you but have never been divorced themselves.

For you to heal from your divorce, it’s going to take time and a commitment from you – to you. Your divorce recovery will be a process and you do have control over it.

In this article, we’ll explore 4 things to help you heal from your divorce. For more specific steps on recreating the life you deserve, we urge you to read “46 Steps to Ensure Your Divorce Recovery: A Definition and a Guide.”

4 Things to Help You Heal from Your Divorce

1. Acknowledge Your Feelings

Divorce is an emotionally disruptive event for virtually everyone. It took a lot for you and your spouse to end your marriage, and the journey through it to even now, can be compounded by conflicting emotions, beliefs, and doubt. You may be feeling relieved that you are out of your marriage, and the next moment, you’re feeling guilty, or missing him, because Jeopardy just came on the TV and you always watched it together.

Whatever your feelings, knowing what to expect and acknowledging them are the first steps to healing. Eventually – with focus and time, you’ll learn to navigate these feelings and complexities and successfully regroup. For perspective, check out “How Long Does It take to Get Over a Divorce and 4 Signs You are On Your Way” and then appreciate the different types of emotions you could be going through as you begin your new life. These may include:


If your partner initiated the divorce, you could spend a lot of time in denial, leading to delays in accepting your new reality. Denial can sometimes explain why some people spend days or even months resisting any engagement with the legal process. They may refuse to respond to the initial divorce papers when they are filed, or they may refuse to consult with a lawyer because this situation “is going to go away” on its own. Denial is a natural response to unpleasant news that disrupts our reality. But remaining in denial, steadfastly denying your reality keeps you living in the past. You are not present and conscious of your now.


The feeling of anger may occur to either party in a divorce and can lead to blame, rage, guilt, and constant thinking about the events leading to your separation. Some people may try to suppress these feelings in the denial stage and unleash anger later on. Rather than pushing anger away, it’s important to accept that anger is a very natural feeling to have when it comes to the break up of your marriage. You will want to exercise patience with yourself and unleash anger in a healthy place where you will not be judged or held to blame for its results.  A good place to release your anger and to understand its important message (what IT’s trying to tell you) is with your therapist, your divorce coach, or your trusted friend who will hold the space for you and not judge you. Remember, decisions made in a state of anger may have serious, long-term repercussions. Check out, “How to Get Through a Divorce and Heal: The Surprising X Factor of a Divorce Coach.”


If you were the initiator of the divorce, you may have had a rough time reconciling your feelings and getting clear on what you want. At some point, then or now, you may have felt guilty about the decision, and you wondered if it was the right move. You may have given your spouse mixed messages about the divorce as a result, leaving your spouse confused over your intentions, and probably hopeful that somehow, someway you both would work it out.

But more often we see the haggling and bartering coming from the spouse who is left. If that was you, you may have been in denial about the divorce and striving desperately to make amends, to negotiate a new deal if only you stay married.  This too is a natural response to unwelcome circumstances. Our brain goes into survival mode, creatively generating new offers, new scenarios we might pursue (marital therapy? A temporary split? A vacation for just the two of you for some time alone?) instead of doing the unacceptable, divorce.


Accepting change is difficult – especially if it’s about your marriage.  But it’s in the acceptance stage that you find peace and healing. Even though negative emotions may still rise up and overwhelm you, the feelings will be milder than before.  At this point, you can deal with the happenings and embrace the fact that it’s over. You’ve come to accept that the old life is behind you, and it’s not coming back.
Of course, this does not happen overnight, or as you’re learning, once you sign the divorce document. You have to go through several stages of feelings before reaching acceptance. And it is through these various stages that you often struggle with the following kinds of questions.

  • Why did this divorce happen to me?
  • How will my kids ever get over this?
  • How can my husband do this after all I’ve invested in this relationship and family?
  • What could I have done better to salvage our shared life?
  • Will I be compensated for monies I put into family projects, like our home or putting him through business school, or for the outstanding personal loan for wedding expenses I incurred?
  • What happens to our joint property? Or to the money I inherited?

Some of these questions have been resolved, you are, after all divorced now, and a business transaction has occurred. But the questions that involve you as a woman and your children will likely not go away. It’s your job now, post divorce to understand how to best support your healing and as well, realize your children are on a recovery path too. Strive to focus on positive things like how you want your life to be moving forward and how you want your children to view you now as an independent woman. What must you model to them?

2. Do Different Activities

After your divorce is finalized, push yourself to focus on other things and away from your breakup story. Trying new things and experiencing different activities is the starting point to breaking old patterns and rewiring your brain so you adapt to your new reality.

Workouts are necessary

It could be resuming a sport you used to love, learning a new one, joining a gym, or going out in the morning for a regular walk in the sunlight, but support your body in its desire to move and to help you move on. Life must and will go on without your partner, so shutting yourself up at home is not a solution. Remember, your Ex could be happy right now, moving on with their life, and thinking about what went wrong or what could have been avoided will make the situation worse for you.

The benefits of working out for your mental and physical health are enormous. Some may believe that exercise must be intense or long for it to have an impact. But on the contrary, going outside for a brisk walk or hike can awaken your body and inner thoughts to a whole new you. Go out there, breathe fresh (instead of recycled) air, sweat a little, and you’ll gain a sense of self-accomplishment as you commit in a fundamental way to your self-care.

As you rebuild your life, remind yourself, you are not alone. Other women have come before you. Gain insight and support by reading our popular article, “How to Overcome the 6 Hardest Things About Life After Divorce.”

Meditation can do wonders to help you heal from your divorce

Many people who have survived the crisis of divorce, talk about important self-discoveries they’ve made through the process. The power of meditation can be one of those discoveries or the means to making them. The most significant benefits of meditation include regaining your emotional and mental control. Take at least five minutes every day for a simple meditation exercise, close your eyes, shut down everything, and focus on your breathing; this will stop your mind from wandering, and ultimately, foster your healing as you slow down to connect with what’s important to you.

Explore old and new hobbies

What did you used to love to do but gave upp because your life became too busy? And, or, what have you always wanted to learn or do? Your life matters and it’s not only about your divorce story. Now is the time to pick back up the guitar, write your novel, or learn to fly a plane or crochet. If you’ve been itching to travel, it is also an amazing way to get away from your story and your baggage, meet new people, and interact with different cultures. A small change like a trip can make major shifts to your inner and outer well-being.  Check out, “Traveling with Another Divorced Woman: 11 Things I had NOT Anticipated.”

Play some music

Listen to soft music that reaches the deepness of your soul. You can dance figuratively and play old songs that rekindle memories and good times. The power of music can turn a dull day into a vibrant one. Also, mundane activities like driving can be fun if you incorporate your favorite melodies.

3. Meet Other People

Divorce can be confusing and once you’ve passed the anger stage, strive to find new people who understand you. Of course, we don’t want you to lose touch with those who love and appreciate you. After all, your family and friends can fill your life with laughter and make you forget the pain you’ve been through. But meeting new people may involve trying new activities, creating new patterns, and pushing yourself to rewire your brain circuitry.

Change the course of your life — AFTER DIVORCE.

Join us, and like-minded women, for 

Paloma’s Group

Our Unusual Divorce Recovery Group for Women.

Schedule your quick chat now to learn if Paloma is right for you and you, right for Paloma.

For some women, this may mean dating, too. If you are ready to date, it’s your choice. If you are not, feel no pressure to do so. This stage you are in after divorce is yours to call. It is also for you to focus on yourself, to really come to understand who you are after the divorce dust has settled. Remind yourself that you really want to know yourself better before you get into any lasting relationship.

4. Seek Help

The divorce process may be long, and as you battle your feelings, you may feel depressed, numb or old. Darkness may engulf your life as you struggle to accept reality. And because of this, it’s important to seek support when things weigh too heavily.

The good thing is you don’t have to go through the pain alone. A support system is an excellent way to take things to a whole new level. Pour out everything and let your therapist know how you feel about the divorce. Luckily, they won’t judge or tiptoe around your feelings like a loved one would. Attend the meetings with an open mind and bring with you an agenda of what you want to accomplish.

Carry a journal and draft notes of things you think may be holding you back from moving on. If you’re uncomfortable with one-on-one sessions, you could consider online therapy.

There are multiple licensed therapists you can use for your recovery sessions. A divorce therapy session can aim to achieve the following:

  • Help you cope with the different stages of grief you are experiencing and steps to take to lessen the pain.
  • Help you set boundaries and realistic coparenting expectations.
  • Teach you how to manage your emotions, especially in high-conflict interactions with your Ex, children or others.
  • Help you develop a new life plan and a whole new you by escaping from an identity crisis that may occur due to the divorce.

Your therapist may recommend medication to help you relax, sleep and reduce anxiety. However, this depends on a case-to-case basis because some people may heal without medication.

If you have kids, you may want to seek counseling sessions for them, because they are going through a tough period as well and they deserve an objective, safe space for them to vent and share their challenges.

Conclusion on 4 Things to Help You Heal from Your Divorce

Your healing period may be long, confusing, and sometimes tedious, but strive to not fall into past patterns. For this reason, it’s best to establish a firm boundary between you and your former spouse unless it’s to discuss important issues such as coparenting or custody scheduling.  Remove reminders of your spouse, such as photos or special things he may have given you. If possible, try to cleanse your house of his energy by changing the environment, redecorating, or moving somewhere else.  When you are ready, purge yourself of the past that no longer serves you. Grieve what you are saying goodbye to, but, because you are deserving and your life is precious, make space for the new that is waiting for you.


SAS women are those amazing ladies you meet who are entirely committed to rebuilding their lives after divorce—on their own terms. If you are a discerning, newly divorced and independent woman, you are invited to experience SAS firsthand and schedule your FREE, 15-minute, private consultation

We’ll help you understand what your next, black-and-white steps are for walking into your BRAVE unknown.

*We support same-sex marriages. For the sake of simplicity in this article, however, we refer to your spouse as your “husband” or a “he.”

how Much does a divorce cost in New York City by Reynaldo #brigworkz Brigantty for pexels.com

How Much Does a Divorce Cost in New York City?

Preparing for the total financial cost is one of the most critical and daunting factors in planning for a divorce. While the average price for a lawyer-led divorce in the United States is approximately $7,000 – $11,0001 (and usually stems from a more heavily contested case), the national average cost of an uncontested, Do It Yourself (DIY) divorce is $2002. That’s a big span.  But where does New York City stand in particular with divorce costs?

How Much Does a Divorce Cost in New York City?

New York City is known for its high energy, high spirit, and high cost of living. This holds true for the high price of a divorce in the city, too. Check out “The Reality of Divorce in New York City” to understand more, but if we compare it to the rest of the state, the Big Apple boasts some of the most expensive legal professionals in the country. New York price averages reflect the large (and expensive) lawyers in metropolitan New York City, therefore a divorce in a different part of the state will likely be lower than the given averages3.

New York City-based lawyers are among the highest-paid in the country. The rough estimate for a lawyer-led divorce in New York City ranges from $13,000 to $25,000 (per person)4 at the base level. For an uncontested DIY divorce, the New York divorce filing fees alone cost $335.5 That’s another big spread in costs.

This article will explore your choices for divorce in New York City and unpack how much it may cost you.

Different Types of Divorce

Different types of divorce will cost different amounts. Henceforth, their complexity and the time needed to devote to the case. An uncontested divorce will always cost less than a contested divorce because both parties agree (ultimately) on all aspects in an uncontested divorce. The price of a contested divorce will range based on complexity. Read this article to make sure you appreciate the difference between a Contested and Uncontested Divorce.

As for “how” you will divorce, or which model of divorce to use, there are four main types of divorces:

  1. The Traditional, lawyer-led model (for Uncontested or Contested divorces)
  2. Mediation (for Uncontested Divorces)
  3. The Collaborative Model (for Uncontested Divorces)
  4. DIY (or Do-It-Yourself, for Uncontested Divorces). To learn more about the 4 different types of divorce, check out this article that explains the specific models.

How Much Does a Divorce Cost in New York City for Traditional Divorces?

When you think of divorce, you often think of the traditional model, where a lawyer prepares your case. Most of your expenses in a traditional divorce will come from a lawyer’s retainer and trial preparation (if you go to court). In New York State, the average hourly cost of a divorce lawyer is $175-325 per hour.6 However, New York City lawyers tend to be more expensive, averaging $340 per hour,7 but can cost you upwards of $800 or more per hour. This hourly fee is on top of the court filing fee of $335 and the in-court fee for litigated divorces, which is $120 per day in New York State.

Even when lawyers are involved, most divorces are uncontested, which means you and your spouse negotiate through your lawyers and eventually agree on most issues.

An uncontested divorce in New York City will run you roughly $5,500 per person8. This accounts for filing fees, lawyer consultations, and settlement agreements.

If your divorce is contested, meaning you and your spouse cannot agree on the issues and must go to trial, your cost will increase considerably. This is because preparing for court is costly. For a trial based on one issue, expect the price to increase by $16,000-$20,000, and for a trial based on two or more points, $22,000-$27,000. The total cost of your litigated divorce will depend on the complexity of your issues. This includes issues like property division, child custody, child support, and spousal maintenance. 

The average price of full litigation for a divorce in New York City is $50,000 — or $25,000 per person.

Finally, New York is one of the few states that still allows for a fault-based divorce. A fault-based divorce is far more expensive than a no-fault divorce. You can choose whether you want to file a no-fault, which means that your marriage is “irretrievably broken,” or a fault divorce, which charges the offending spouse with physical or mental abuse, adultery, abandonment, or imprisonment. Fault-based divorces are far more expensive because they will almost certainly go to trial, and your lawyer must work to discover and prove evidence that proves fault.

Learn about Fault vs. No fault divorce in this SAS piece.

Wonder what “Irreconcilable Differences” are when it comes to divorce? Check out this piece “What are Irreconcilable Differences and Do They Apply to You?”

How Much Does a Divorce Cost in New York City for DIY Divorces?

For a completely uncontested divorce, you might consider a DIY divorce. This is possible only if you and your spouse agree on all aspects of the divorce. and you are willing and able to invest a lot of time and energy into your case. This is because you will be responsible for it all on your own. If this is the case, your main cost will be the New York Court’s filing fee. Every state has a filing fee for filing your divorce with the court. This is the bare minimum, mandatory cost of a divorce. The New York City divorce filing fee is $335. This filing fee is added to the county’s index number cost. The index number is the number for your case that you put on all the papers before you file (it’s like a case identification number). The general index cost in New York is $210.

The absolute lowest cost for a DIY divorce in New York City is about $545 and accounts only for the filing fee and the index fee.

However, because the courts know how difficult it is to perfect the court process entirely on your own, New York offers an online divorce platform to assist you in your DIY divorce. This online system costs about $130. There any many reasons why a couple might invest in a New York Divorce Online service. A service would allow you to fill out the forms wherever and whenever you want, to take your time and be thoughtful with your information, to easily correct any mistakes you might make on the forms, and to have complete control over the process. A DIY divorce is the cheapest and the most personally labor-intensive type of divorce in New York City. Read “How Does an Online Divorce Work?”

SAS Tip: If you have the ability to dedicate time and energy and have an uncomplicated situation, then a DIY divorce is the least expensive option – but we only recommend it if you have little or no assets or debt and there are no children involved.

How Much Does a Divorce Cost in New York City for Uncontested Divorces? (Mediation)

Mediation, rather than litigation, is another option for an uncontested divorce. You might consider meditation if you and your spouse agree on all important aspects of your divorce (think property, child custody and support, and spousal maintenance). Mediation aims to save money by agreeing without having to enter the courtroom or go to trial. In most cases, this option will be far less expensive than a traditional divorce.

The average cost of private mediation in the state of New York ranges from $4,000 – $8,000,9 with New York City being on the higher end of the range.

Typically, mediation costs correlate to how complicated the divorce is (like with traditional lawyer costs) and the number of mediation sessions needed. Mediation fees typically include one to four sessions with a mediator, the preparation of the settlement agreement, and the cost of preparing and filing the divorce papers with the court.

Just like in traditional divorces, the more complex the case is, the more it will cost. The main cost factors in mediation are the number of issues in the case, the complexity of the problems, the cooperation of both parties, and the need for outside experts or specialists. If you use outside support, which is often a good thing, you will want to read this article on how “Hiring a Mediation Attorney in a Divorce Could Save You Money.”

Collaborative Divorce

In New York City, collaborative divorces are still relatively new.

  1. Divorce attorneys assist couples in resolving the contentious issues of divorce in a problem-solving manner.
  2. Lawyers negotiate on behalf of their clients and do not prepare for trial, putting them somewhere between mediation and full litigation.
  3. Divorces are typically less expensive than litigation and court battles, but they can occasionally cost even more. The cost of a collaborative divorce is determined by the complexity of the case.

In some cases, you might need to bring in a team of experts, like therapists, financial experts, or child psychologists, to reach a mutual agreement. Adding experts to a case will significantly increase the overall cost. If no additional experts are needed, then you are paying for the ease and peaceful problem-solving nature that accompanies a collaborative divorce.

Tip: If you have children and do not want to subject them to the litigious court process, you might consider mediation or budgeting for a higher-cost collaborative divorce – to keep the peace for the sake of your children.


Divorces are expensive. They take extensive planning and budgeting to ensure you can afford the type of divorce you want for the results you desire. Prior research and understanding of your options will ensure that there are no financial surprises or unneeded lessons learned the hard way. Make sure you advocate for yourself and ask questions before committing to any divorce model or legal process.


Elizabeth Newland is a third-year law student in Chicago who is committed to children and family rights. She aims to work in a family-related non-profit firm after graduation. 

Since 2012, SAS for Women is entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience and its confusing afterward. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists, and support strategies for you, and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected


*We support same-sex marriages. For the sake of simplicity in this article, however, we refer to your spouse as your “husband” or a “he.”


  1. How Much Divorce Lawyers Charge, Lawyers.com
  2. How Much Does a Divorce Cost in 2022?, Forbes
  3. New York Divorce: How Much Does it Cost? How Long Does it Take? “New York’s statewide averages are likely a reflection of the large number of attorneys in our study from the greater New York City metropolitan area, where hourly rates were among the highest in the nation.”
  4. How Much Divorce Lawyers Charge, Lawyers.com
  5. Filing for an Uncontested Divorce, NYCourts.gov
  6. How Much Does a Divorce Lawyer Cost in New York?, OnlineDivorceNY.com
  7. How Much Does a Divorce Lawyer Cost in New York?, OnlineDivorceNY.com
  8. How Much Divorce Lawyers Charge, Lawyers.com
  9. How Much Does Divorce Mediation Cost in New York, Snap Divorce
Which States Have the Shortest Residency Requirement to Divorce

Which States Have the Shortest Residency Requirement to Divorce (and Which Ones, the Longest?)

Figuring out where to file for divorce can be tricky. Each state has different rules and timelines that dictate who is eligible to file for divorce in that specific state. In this article, we’ll be providing insight as to what the most common requirements are to file for divorce, which states have the longest residency requirements for divorce, and which ones have the shortest. As well, we’ll explore particular requirements of certain states, and finally, what to do to make sure your divorce is finalized as quickly as possible. 

What is residency and residency requirements?

Every single US state has a residency requirement before you can file for divorce in that state.  Residency, or sometimes your attorney may use the word “domicile” means that you live in the state that you are filing. Domicile, however, requires you to reside there and have intent to remain in the state. Residency just means that you need to be present in the state at the time of filing. 

For a divorce to be filed in the proper state, either you, your Soon-to-Be-Ex, or both of you need to be residents of the state in which you are filing for a divorce. Only one of you needs to be a resident. Keep that in mind in case you and your Soon-to-Be-Ex separate and move to different states and want to obtain a divorce.

Some states have longer residency requirements, and others have much shorter ones

States implemented residency requirements so couples could not “forum shop” and pick the state with the best divorce laws for their situation. Instead, you need to meet the residency requirement before you can file for a divorce. Each state differs in its residency requirement. Most states have a 6-month residency requirement. That means you have to live in the state for 6 months before filing for a divorce in that state. 

States that are fast at granting a divorce

Some states are much faster at divorces than others. For example, Alaska, South Dakota, and Washington state only require that you be a resident at the time of filing. So, say you move to Alaska on Monday. Tuesday, you can file for divorce there.  

It’s important to remember that filing your divorce is the first step in the legal process. Even after you meet any residency requirement, the court still needs some processing time to finalize your divorce. Other states are faster than others at this. Alaska is notoriously fast at finalizing a divorce. Alaska, Nevada, and South Dakota can usually finalize a divorce in just under two months. Of course, each divorce is different and your particular circumstances could cause a delay. For example, the fastest divorces are ones in which you and your Soon-to-Be-Ex agree on everything (an uncontested divorce). In this case, you (or your lawyer) just need to send in the agreements for the judge to approve. 

Understand more about “agreeing on everything” by reading “What’s the Difference Between a Contested and Uncontested Divorce?” And if you want more info on what makes a “contested divorce,” read this important piece.

States that are slower in granting a divorce

Some states take much longer to get a divorce. They may have a longer residency requirement, and also have long waiting periods before your divorce is finalized. California, for example, has a 6-month state residency requirement and a 3-month county residency requirement. Vermont is another state that is notoriously slow at finalizing divorces. Vermont has a  one-year residency requirement, and there needs to be six months where you and your spouse live separately, and a three-month “decree nisi” period before the judge approves the divorce. This decree nisi just means that the judgment (in this case, your divorce) will become binding at a later date.

What you can do to speed up your divorce

Something else to keep in mind is whether or not your state has “no-fault” divorce. No fault divorce means that you do not have to prove something is wrong in your marriage, or someone is to blame; you just have to inform the court that irreconcilable differences caused a breakdown of the marriage. Most states have no-fault divorce laws, but if your state is a faults divorce state, there may be a long process to prove someone did something wrong in your marriage. Certain “faults” that warrant a divorce are adultery, insanity, alienation of affection, or emotional and physical abuse. Read more about fault vs. no-fault divorce in this SAS article.

Something else that can cause a delay in your divorce process is whether or not your state requires parenting classes. Some states like Illinois for example, require parents who want to get a divorce to complete an online parenting class before allowing the parties to divorce one another. 

Check out “6 Essential Things to Know About an Illinois Divorce.”

Certain state requirements, such as parenting classes, will be something that your attorney will know. Make sure to ask a divorce attorney about any particular requirements you may face in your state so that you can get going on anything you need to get done to ensure your divorce moves along swiftly.

If you’ve not yet connected for an educational consultation with a divorce attorney near you, check out this piece on how to find a good divorce lawyer.

It is important to note that there can be another issue to consider when evaluating where you can file for divorce. If you have children, child custody cases must be filed in the child’s home state. 

While it is not completely in your control, as each state is different, there are things that you and your spouse can do to make the process faster. Transparency with your attorney and your Soon-to-be-Ex is the best policy. The faster you can agree on things without the judge, the faster your divorce will be finalized and ready to go. That being said, never feel the need to settle if your spouse is not willing to negotiate. The judge can step in, that’s what the justice system is there for. 

Conclusion about residency requirements

To summarize, each state varies in the residency requirements to get a divorce. Some states have additional requirements on top of residency that you need to know about before filing for divorce. Make sure you learn the rules for the state in which you file your divorce. Regardless of any waiting period or specific requirements, the more on top of things you are, the faster you can get your divorce finalized.


Alexa Valenzisi is a rising 3L student in Chicago who is committed to child law and education law. She aims to work in education law or family law after graduation.

Annie’s Group

For women thinking about … or beginning the divorce process, you’ll want to consider Annie’s Group, SAS for Women’s signature, 3-month group coaching program for those wanting an education, community, and guidance for learning what is possible for their lives. Whether it’s separation, divorce, or even staying married, commit to discovering what will be the healthiest thing for you and for everyone.

Check out Annie Group here.

*We support same-sex marriages and fluid gender identities. For the sake of simplicity in this article, however, we refer to your spouse as your “husband” or a “he.”

Finding Clarity in Your Divorce Chaos

Finding Clarity in Your Divorce Chaos

How do you see straight? If you are looking for a particular kind of divorce help — finding clarity in the midst of your chaos — you would think it’s a normal question to be asking, a worthy goal, an actual state you could attain if you just put the time in or found the right guru. How do you see straight?

And yet, confusion, self-doubt, and overwhelm remain. There are so many thoughts and feelings running through you as you stand on the divorce cliff ( — or after having actually jumped) that it probably seems like your head and your heart are mortal enemies who absolutely refuse to get along. Seeing straight about your divorce is not something they can agree on.

Why? well, there’s a lot scrambling through your head. At any given moment you might be wondering: How will you survive? Of all the moves in front of you, which one is the smartest? Will your spouse be angry and vindictive? How do you help your kids escape unscathed? Where will you find the time to do everything you think you must do or (don’t yet know) to do? And, of course, what about the money?

Parallel to your brain’s endless swirl of questions — on another plane entirely — is your heart, pounding and fluctuating… What if he’s* your best friend? How do you live with the guilt? If your marriage isn’t abusive (he just sits there), do you still deserve to get divorced? And what if you feel completely broken? How do you get over the betrayal if he’s the one wanting out? Or, what if you are afraid that the narcissist will never let the divorce end?

This internal tension between your head and your heart can make it hard for you to find clarity, or to feel anything but overwhelmed. You might be feeling a sense of being trapped, or a desperate need to give up.

You could also feel inadequate; like you alone are particularly challenged by this situation. You alone are particularly weak or unprepared. You alone are unable to determine, as you look out at an endless field of fires, which fire to put out first, where to start, and what to do next.

But take it from us, this seismic, ebbing and flowing conflict inside you? It’s par for the divorce course. As crazy as you may feel, you are completely normal. So, please, stop gaslighting yourself. It is possible to find the help you need to get through the divorce, both within yourself and from others.

Today, instead of just reviewing and rehashing what you know and don’t know, let’s try something else. You are going to slow things down and begin to manage this crisis (and let’s not pussyfoot around this, it is a crisis).

But first understand, that if you are in an abusive marriage, your situation is in a separate category. We urge you to stop reading this article and consult this piece instead,  Steps to Take if You Are in an Abusive Marriage. The actions to protect yourself in an abusive situation are very different from the ones we will discuss below.

Finding Clarity in Your Divorce Chaos

Let’s begin. Find a piece of paper, or go to an open document on your computer, and continue reading below.

Part I. Letting Your Brain Unload

Step 1: Imagine building a wall between everything that’s happening in your head, and everything that’s happening in your heart.

And then, put your hand on your head, and connect with your brain. What are some of the pressing questions your mind wants you to ask? What does your brain want to desperately know?

Close your eyes and listen. Your brain is interested in facts, certainties, black and whites. Your brain is not interested in your feelings and their nebulous activity. That’s your heart, and we’ll get to your feelings soon enough 😉. Give your brain permission to only focus on the practical steps of getting a divorce.

Perhaps your brain is wondering:

How will you get divorced? 

How will you respond to your husband’s request for a divorce? 

Do you use a lawyer? A mediator? Can you do this divorce DIY?

How do you get full custody of the kids? Or, can you? 

How do you know what your financial choces, or questions re, if you’ve never managed the finances in your house?

Give yourself 5 minutes to brainstorm the questions weighing on your brain. Write those questions down, as related or unrelated as they may seem to one another.

Step 2: Now look at the questions, and organize them by putting the most important ones first.

How do you know which ones are the most important? Ask your brain, which ones seem the loudest today.

Step 3: As you look at these reorganized questions, ask yourself who can help you get the answers to your divorce questions.

Write the person’s name, or the type of professional you need, next to each question. 

Note: this step is not asking you “What are the answers to these questions?” but rather, “Who can help you discover the answers to these questions?”

SAS Tip: A lot of divorce problem-solving is not solving the problem per se, but rather, solving the mystery of whom you should turn to for the smartest answer to the question. Who’s that person for you?

It would be normal if you thought your divorce and your circumstances were utterly unique. Everybody does. But underneath your situation, we guarantee you, there are general truths and laws that apply. Your questions concern issues or dilemmas that other women have asked too. So, instead of recreating the wheel, trying to extract your answers by spending hours on Google (which by the way, will never work), or listening to what your Soon-to-Be-Ex says, find the professional or person who has helped others move beyond their issues!

To gain perspective and truth, you need to seek help from divorce professionals and people who have recovered (and healed) from divorce.

Professionals who can help you with your brain’s questions include a divorce attorney, a certified divorce financial analyst (CDFA), or a good financial advisor, and perhaps now, but certainly long term, an accountant. The most comprehensive resource no matter where you are in the journey is a divorce coach. A good divorce coach can help you organize, prioritize, connect to vetted referrals, and help you sequence your steps, and importantly, formulate your questions and strategies.

People who are healed are those who have moved on from their divorces and are now living better and happier lives. A good indicator of being healed is that they are not telling the same old story about the downfall of their marriage. They understand and are willing to discuss their part in its demise. This is a special, hard-earned clarity they’ve attained, having surviving and finding help in the midst of the divorce chaos.

Step 4:  Act.

Move! Get out of your own head. Connect, and consult with the right people to advance your knowledge, and understand what is possible. Let your brain feel relief that you are actually doing something, instead of just ruminating about these issues.

Read this SAS piece if you wonder how to find a good divorce attorney to start your legal education. It’s critical you learn your rights, and what you are entitled to BEFORE you start carving things up.

 If you are contemplating it, or would need help in finding clarity dealing with the chaos of divorce, you are invited to schedule a free, 15-minute consultation with us. We will help you cut to the essence of your challenges, which will save you precious time. We’ve successfully and lovingly supported women through divorce coaching for more than a decade. Learn why. Visit here to meet with us.

Part II. Giving Space to Your Feelings

Step 1: Now, leave this brain side of the wall and take a couple of big, cleansing breaths. We’re now focusing on your heart. Put your hand to your heart, close your eyes, and take three big breaths, breathing into your heart space.

Ask your heart, what are its loudest feelings TODAY?  

Write those feelings down. And don’t settle for one or two feelings, instead allow your heart to really open up and name the many, many emotions you are carrying inside of you. Give yourself five minutes to really dredge your heart.

(It’s important to name the feeling, not the story behind the feeling. So “Overwhelmed,” “Unsure,” or “Confused,” and not, “I don’t know what to do because Fred is saying one thing, and my mother is saying another.”)

Step 2: Observe the diversity of your feelings – they can be all over the place and seemingly, oppositional.

Your emotions are not rational or linear; they are in “motion”. This is why they are called emotions. For example, you might be feeling “fear” and “anxiety,” coupled with “hope” or “excitement.”

Step 3:  Pick the loudest emotion.

Observe which one seems to be the very loudest today.

Step 4: Slow down even more, and connect with that feeling. Ask yourself, where does that feeling live in your body?

Locate where it resides in your body, and if you can, put your hand on that part of your body (is it your chest, your throat, or your legs?) Physically connect with that part of the body, and close your eyes. Ask the feeling, what does it want you to know today?

Is it…

afraid you will never survive?

forecasting that you will always be alone – that you are not loveable?

it telling you that your divorce means you are a failure, and that everybody in this world will now know the truth? You are a loser.

Spend 3 minutes writing down what it wants you to know. If your brain interjects and starts problem-solving for the emotion, ask your brain to soften and bring your attention back to your heart, and this feeling. Stay connected as you channel, and write down your feelings’ messages.

Step 5: Now read over what this feeling has told you, and decide what you want to do with the message.

Notice that this feeling carries with it memories of you and your past. Is it focused on an unpleasant outcome from a past experience? Ask yourself, what’s different about that past experience, as compared to where you are today?

Notice as well that this is just one feeling of a multitude of feelings you hold today. The questions for you now are:

What can you do to show this feeling that you’ve heard it? 

How will you honor this specific feeling with an action?

What will you do to support, or lighten it?

For example, if this feeling is projecting that you will be alone, you’ve always been alone, and you will die alone, then you might commit to calling an old friend or beloved family member regularly, to cultivate your connection to others. Or you might join a divorce support group, so you are in a community to learn and be with others who can help you understand what you are going through.

If you are feeling anxious, you might show your anxiety that you will go outside daily and walk around in nature and sunlight. This will help you metabolize anxiety’s sense of nervousness and dread. Studies have shown that connecting with nature can greatly boost our capacity to withstand stress.

For many women, finding support for understanding their feelings, and what to do with them amidst a chaotic divorce experience, means working with a good therapist or coach trained in supporting people dealing with divorce.

Your feelings, just like the messages from your brain, need attention to feel that they are being listened to and not ignored. Connecting with them regularly allows you to plan out how to manage your own health and wellbeing before, during, and after separation and divorce.


When facing a major life change like divorce, it’s hard to tease out what to consider or do first, or even, how to begin. Yet, when we slow things down and really look at the individual pieces, one by one, we can evaluate them, their specific needs, and take mindful actions in response.

Devising a system to examine ourselves can help us begin the process of slowing things down.  One way of doing that is looking at what’s happening in our brain, and what’s happening in our heart. Then we can begin by taking action on behalf of each of them – not together, not at once – but separately and thoughtfully.

Action is the common denominator, and in many instances, the action involves stepping outside and connecting with something other than ourselves (or Google). These critical and lifesaving touchstones may be divorce professionals, divorced friends serving as mentors, or an entire community of like-minded individuals. Stepping outside of ourselves may also quite literally mean heading outdoors, to allow the healing effects of nature to shift our systems and expand our sense of space, hope, and light.

Stay committed to you.

Read 36 Things to Do If You Are Thinking About Divorce to support yourself and to continue taking healthy steps.


Since 2012, SAS for Women is entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience and its confusing afterward. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

*We support same-sex marriages. For the sake of simplicity in this article, however, we refer to your spouse as your “husband” or a “he.”

Marital vs Non Marital Property

Marital Property and Nonmarital Property: The Unforeseen Differences

It is no secret that divorce can be messy—especially when it comes to dividing marital assets. Typically, the aftermath of divorce leaves people with less income and more debt than they had while married—causing many to suffer financially. Unfortunately, this is even more true for women.

According to one study from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the household income of women over the age of 50 fell by 41% following divorce or separation– while men’s only dropped by 23%. This is why it is crucial to evaluate your financial assets (and debt) and educate yourself on the rules of property division when considering or going through with a divorce. 

As a general rule, property can be classified in one of two ways — either as “marital” or “nonmarital” property. In this article, we discuss what these terms mean, how they differ, and their role in the divorce process. 

What is Marital Property?

Marital property, also known as “community” property refers to any property acquired or earned by either party during a marriage and up until the date of separation. Typically, this includes real estate purchases and other items purchased by the married couple together.

For example, if you and your spouse purchased a home together, that would be considered marital property. While you probably could have guessed that a family home would be classified as marital property, there are some other less obvious examples of marital property, which may include: 

  • Motor vehicles such as cars and boats
  • Household items such as furniture, jewelry, and artwork ( — yes, even if your spouse “gave” you the jewelry or painting as a present!)
  • Bank accounts, stocks, and bonds
  • Pensions, securities, and other retirement benefits 

One important point we want to emphasize about bank accounts is that a bank account could be in your name– yet still, be considered marital property if the money in that account was earned during the course of your marriage. Basically, the key to determining whether your property falls under the category of marital is if at the time the property was acquired, you and your spouse bought the item together, while married.

However, if you are feeling unsure about whether a particular property would be considered marital, it is always a good idea to check with a professional– such as a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst. 

To learn more about the benefits of getting financial help with a divorce, we encourage you to read “How a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst Can Help with a Divorce.

What is Nonmarital Property?

Nonmarital property, also known as “separate” property refers to any property that is owned only by one spouse. Typically, property is classified as nonmarital or separate if:

  • The property was acquired by either spouse before the marriage
  • The property was acquired by either spouse after the date of separation
  • The property was given to one of the spouses by gift from a third party or by inheritance– either before or during the marriage
  • Both spouses have agreed to– in writing–that the property is separate (for example, a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement)

However, it is important to keep in mind that there are some circumstances in which separate property can be turned into marital property. Typically, this occurs when a separate property has been mixed or “commingled” with a marital property– meaning it was either repaired, enhanced, or traded in for a new property during the marriage and with marital funds.

In some cases, if the value of the commingled property cannot be separately traced to one spouse, then it may no longer be considered separate property. Further, if one spouse’s separate property increases in value or produces income during the marriage—and the other spouse contributed a significant amount to that increase or income, then a portion of that separate property may be deemed marital property. 

If you are in the process of divorce, you’ll want to know what else you should be doing to take care of yourself. Read “The 55 Must-Do’s on Your Modern Divorce Checklist.”

So, what does this mean in terms of divorce?

Once it’s been determined which property is marital or separate– the next thing to figure out is how that property will be divided in a divorce. Universally, separate property will not be divided between parties because only one spouse owns and has legal rights to that property. Marital property, on the other hand, is considered jointly owned–meaning each spouse equally owns the property and will be subject to division in divorce cases. 

However, how marital property gets divided will depend on what state you live in.

Essentially, states divide marital property based on either “equitable distribution” or “community property.” In equitable distribution states, a judge examines each case individually and divides the marital property based on what they believe is fair for both parties. Community property states use a much simpler process and divide marital property equally (50/50) between both spouses. However, since this is just a general overview of both types—be sure to read this article to understand more: “Divorce Property Division: Community Property States vs Equitable Distribution States.”

Organize and make a list of your Nonmarital and Marital property

Ultimately, whether you are thinking about divorce or in the process of one—it is important to first organize and list your financial assets (as well as your debt) and to then learn which assets are marital and nonmarital. Since property division all depends on state divorce laws, we suggest learning if your state is an equitable distribution or community property state. (That question you can ask Google!)

Once you figure out whether you live in an equitable distribution or community property state, you can try to determine which property will be deemed marital and which will be split in the case of divorce. But often it will require an expert or professional, like a divorce lawyer or certified divorce financial analyst to evaluate what is what for sure. Doing this kind of work is essential to managing expectations and clarifying what is yours or marital. That in turn will ensure a (somewhat) smoother and speedier divorce process– for both you and your spouse.


Jayne Cleary is a second-year law student in New York who is committed to helping educate and improve the families in her community.

Since 2012, SAS for Women has been entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience and its confusing afterward. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists, and support strategies for you, and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

*We support same-sex marriages and fluid gender identities. For the sake of simplicity in this article, however, we refer to your spouse as your “husband” or a “he.”

What Are You Telling Yourself After the Affair Has Ended?

What Are You Telling Yourself After the Affair Has Ended?

What do you do when your world implodes and the love you thought would last is suddenly gone? I’m not talking about your marriage. I’m talking about your affair. What do you do after the affair has ended?

Affairs, like people, come in all shapes and sizes. They begin and end for different (though, interestingly, somewhat predictable) reasons. And they run their courses on different (though, again, somewhat predictable) timelines.

From Darwin to Freud to Dr. Ruth, theories on the motivations for cheating abound.

Modernize those theories with statistics on women who cheat, and the discussion becomes much more interesting and telling.

There are countless factors that influence the temptation and even proclivity to cheat. Like the “sets and subsets” of our elementary math days, they overlap in some areas and stand alone in others.

You can’t ignore, for example, the concurrence of women flooding into the workforce and stepping out of their marriages. Suddenly “having more” or “having it all” became an equal-opportunity employer because of…well, opportunity.

Perhaps the most constant and accepted theory of why women cheat zeros in on a woman’s natural yearning for emotional connection in a relationship. Centrifuge that down to its core message, and it sounds something like, “Men want sex, women want connection.”

Sounds pretty raw and overreaching for a stand-alone theory, but it’s not without merit. And its inherent message can be enlightening – even life-altering – after the affair has ended.

If nothing else, this focus on what a woman not only wants, but needs in a relationship can inform and guide her choices if (but more likely when) her affair ends.

So let’s use the end of an affair as a starting point. After all, the majority of affairs do end, and for fairly predictable reasons.

From being united in a common bubble of excitement, misery, and secrecy to succumbing to unchanged coping styles, eventually, most affairs crumble.

If you’re a woman who has cheated on your husband and are now at the end of an affair, you’re probably feeling like a rowboat mid-Atlantic at midnight. 

Where are you? What the hell do you do now after the affair? 

And are those fins you just saw circling the boat, or is it your imagination?

Before you start paddling aimlessly toward a dark, unknown destination, you have a big question to answer: Should you stay or should you go?

What may surprise you – and even attempt to heist your decision-making – is the grief you will feel. 

And it may be overlapping grief for two relationships.

Depending on the length of your affair, you may have developed a deeply emotional relationship with this other man. With women especially, this kind of affair can feel like a marriage in itself – or at least a transition away from an unsatisfying marriage.

Distinguishing between the natural grief that accompanies the loss of anything important to you and the realization of what you were seeking to begin with will be difficult.

As if that’s not a weighty enough task, you will be crushed by the obvious and imminent dilemma: Do you tell your husband about the affair?

Is it possible that he really doesn’t know or even suspect? 

What will the backlash be like? 

Will he even want to stay married to you? 

Do you even want to stay married to him? 

How will you discover the answers in the midst of so much hurt, anger, and confusion?

You have a handful of choices at the moment:

  • Tell your husband about the affair and express remorse and a desire (and commitment) to work on your marriage.
  • Tell your husband about the affair and tell him you want a divorce, even though the affair has ended.
  • Tell your husband about the affair and tell him you want a temporary separation to work on yourself and potentially your marriage.
  • Don’t tell your husband, but stay in your marriage and work to make it better.
  • Don’t tell your husband, stay with things as they are, and hope he doesn’t find out.

Every choice carries consequences that can’t be reneged on.

You may not have consciously considered the possibility that marriage isn’t for you at all. 

Searching outside your marriage may not have been at all about looking for what someone else could fill.

It may have been about looking for what only you can fill.

You are now in a position of unfathomable accountability.

You are also in a position of unimaginable opportunity.

And you will have to embrace both at the same time.

Before rushing into a decision, you need to get down and dirty with your reasons for cheating in the first place. 

What lured you into becoming part of the cheating wife phenomenon

Were you really starving for an emotional connection that could/would never exist in your marriage? 

Or were you, perhaps, yearning for the sexual gratification that has long been nodded to cheating men?

These aren’t and won’t be easy questions to answer. If epiphanies were a checkout-lane commodity, perhaps we wouldn’t leave such devastation in our quest for them.

Certainly now, more than perhaps any other time in your life, is the moment to seek guidance in your process. 

Discernment counseling can help you learn if there is any hope left in your marriage. It can also help you devise a plan for telling your husband (if that’s your intention) and deal with the fallout.

And hiring a divorce coach can ensure you are informed of the divorce process before you or your husband rush into any irrevocable decisions.

Finally, one assurance you must have:

You are not alone on this journey. Millions of women have been and still are where you are. 

And support and camaraderie – without judgment – are right here for you.

This period – this black hole after the affair has ended – not only can be but will be life-changing. 

It’s up to you to decide what that change looks like.


Since 2012, SAS for Women is entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience and its confusing afterward. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklist,s and support strategies for you, and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.


*We support same-sex marriages. For the sake of simplicity in this article, however, we refer to your spouse as your “husband” or a “he.”

Legal Issues of Divorce

The 4 Biggest Legal Issues You Might Face in Divorce

Each and every divorce is unique in its own way. That being said, there are certain legal issues that just about every single divorce proceeding deals with. You might not know that, because the phrases or words your divorce attorney uses, or the way the legal issues are presented in your research, or the documents and forms you are viewing can be very confusing, foreign-sounding, and alienating. This is why, to make things clearer and more accessible for you, we present the following: a breakdown of the 4 biggest legal issues you might face in your legal divorce process.

Legal Issues of Property Division

As one of the most common legal issues in divorce, property division is an umbrella term that encompasses a lot of the financial aspects of your divorce. Property division focuses on your assets and divides them equitably. It is important to know that courts focus on equity, not equality, so don’t be surprised if your property isn’t divided 50/50 at the end of your divorce. 

There are four major steps in figuring out property division: 

  1. Identify the property. 

Your attorney will ask you to fill out some sort of financial affidavit, which is a fancy way of listing out your assets. This can be culled from income statements, deeds, financial documents, and tax returns, but involves retirement accounts, cars, your house, in fact, anything you, your spouse, or both of you own. You will need to disclose everything.

  1. Classify the property as marital or non-marital. 

Then your attorney will want to figure out what is your separate property, and what is marital property. Whatever is your own property, you keep to yourself. However, how your assets (and debt) are considered (whether it’s your property or marital property) depends very much on which state you live in and the divorce law there.

Read more in our “Property Division: Community Property States vs. Equitable Distribution States.”

For example, say you have a savings account only in your name, and your spouse has one in their name. You would keep your respective savings accounts; however, if you two had a joint bank account, that becomes marital property because you both “own” it.

  1. Assign the value to all of the marital property. 

This is usually a relatively easy step. If you have a joint bank account that has $5,000.00 in it, that is worth $5,000.00. Attorneys typically ask what the fair market value is to figure out the worth of a vehicle, house, or other tangible items. 

  1. Divide the marital property equitably. 

After figuring out all marital property, every asset needs to be divided equitably. It is important to note that “fault” is not considered in an equitable division. For example, if your Ex cheats on you, that is not a factor when determining how to equitably divide a property. 

Read the SAS “Fault vs. No-Fault Divorce” article to understand more about “fault.” 

Legal Issues of Spousal Maintenance

Another common legal issue in divorce pertains to maintenance, which is another name for alimony. Maintenance is one adult paying the living expenses of another. Maintenance is usually the most unpredictable aspect of divorce because there are a lot of factors that courts will look at to determine who, if anyone, should receive maintenance. That being said, courts are leaning towards a formula approach rather than a factor approach to make things more predictable. 

How Maintenance Works

The most important factor courts look at is the ability of the spouse with the lower income to support themselves post-divorce. The easiest way to explain maintenance is to give a standard example courts see during divorces: 

Say a couple has been married for 15 years. The woman, after having children with her husband, decides to stop working and stay at home with the kids. The court considers the mother’s income to be $0. This has nothing to do with the “worth” of a stay-at-home parent, but rather, they do not have an income from a job. Say the father in this example makes $100,000.00 a year. The woman, over the years, got used to a standard of living with a $100,00.00 income. Maintenance accounts for her standard of living during the marriage and her ability for her to support herself. In this case, the man would definitely have to pay maintenance to the wife. 

Maintenance can be permanent or short-term, and it can be modified. The key term to modifying maintenance is a “substantial change in circumstances.” If someone wants to modify maintenance, they have to prove a substantial change in circumstances occurred. 

You and your Ex can waive your right or his right to maintenance as well. Similarly, not every divorce case is one where maintenance is appropriate. Maintenance, whether paying it or receiving it, is not guaranteed in your divorce. 

Legal Issues of Custody and Parenting Time

These legal issues only apply if you have a minor child. A minor child is a child under the age of 18 who is not emancipated. If you have at least one minor child, custody and parenting time will be something brought up in your divorce. 

There are two types of custody: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody is the power to make legal decisions (school, medical, religion, etc.), and physical custody relates to the day-to-day routine (routine care, outfits for school, etc.).

Custody is awarded in the best interest of the child. The best interest of the child does not mean asking the child who they want to live with. Instead, courts will look at the entire situation that both parents are in, and figure out who should have custody based on the best interest of the child. 

Child Support

Child support is the financial aspect of child-related legal issues. It is incredibly important to understand that parenting time and child support are two separate issues – so just because you have parenting time, it does not mean you may be owed child support and vice versa. 

Courts usually take a formula approach to calculating child support, so it’s a pretty predictable financial issue in your divorce. The majority of states follow this formula: 

(Gross monthly income of parent 1) + (Gross monthly income of parent 2) = the parents’ combined income

Courts take the combined income and multiply it by a child support percentage, coming up with a “child support amount,” and then figure out who is owed what portion of that amount. 

Child support is usually awarded to the parent who has the child, or children, the most amount of time. So if your kids live with you most days out of the year, your Ex would owe you child support. Child support is designed to take care of the everyday essentials for children. Child support ends when you and your Ex’s youngest child turns 18. 

For more on this important topic, read “Child Support: 5 Things Mothers Must Know.”

Prenup and Postnup

Some couples decide to sign a prenuptial (prenup) or a postnuptial (postnup) agreement. A prenup is signed before you are married, and a postnup is signed after you are married. In the eyes of the law, prenups and postnups are binding contracts. If you signed either one of these before or during your divorce, it will be binding on your divorce agreement. This means that if you do have a prenup or postnup, whatever you agreed to in those contracts will be part of your divorce settlement. 

Check out “The Top 7 Things to Know About Postnuptial Agreements.”

If you did not sign any prenup or post nup, this is nothing to worry about. It just means there is no prior contract between you and your Ex and you can negotiate as many issues as you would like during your divorce. 

Legal Issues in Settlement vs. Trial

Your attorneys may encourage you to try to settle with your spouse. Settling basically means you come to an agreement with your Ex before going to court and having a judge decide certain details about your divorce. The biggest positives of settling are it will cost way less in attorney’s fees and lessen the ongoing, emotional rollercoaster of dealing with your break up. Settling is the best option if you and your spouse are in agreement with most legal issues of your divorce, or will eventually agree to them. So, do keep it top of mind when you talk to your attorney. 

If you are thinking about or beginning divorce, you’ll want to check out this complete list of things to help you stay organized and protected:  “55 Must Do’s On Your Modern Divorce Checklist.”

Legal Issues in Divorce: Get to Know Your Terminology

While every divorce is different, there are some things that almost every couple has to deal with. Property division and spousal maintenance are standard legal issues in any divorce. If you and your Ex have a minor child, you’ll also have to figure out custody and child support. This is not an exhaustive list, but a pretty good start to know what issues may arise and what your attorney may ask you about when you start your divorce. 


Alexa Valenzisi is a rising 3L student in Chicago who is committed to child law and education law. She aims to work in education law or family law after graduation. 

Whether you are thinking about divorce, dealing with it, or recreating the life you deserve, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do it alone. 

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oftentimes complicated experience of breaking up and reinventing.  Join our tribe and receive six free months of email coaching, action plans, checklists, and support strategies for you — and your precious future. Be with us and stay connected.

Fault Divorce

Fault Divorce vs. No-Fault Divorce: What You Need to Know

One aspect of a divorce that can be difficult to fully understand is the legal concept of fault. Now you can probably point to many faults that led to the end of your marriage, like emotional abandonment, drifting apart, or poor communication, etc. So, it’s unlikely you’d define the end of your marriage as no-fault when you describe its breakdown to your friends and family. However, these are common societal examples of fault. They hold no legal significance. The legal system has a different, more stringent definition of fault when it comes to divorce. 

Your initial petition for divorce will ask or indicate a reason for the divorce or the grounds for separation. Based on your state, this is where you indicate whether you are filing a no-fault or fault-based divorce.

What is a No-Fault Divorce?

A No-Fault divorce occurs when a marriage is irreparably broken in the eyes of the court. In plain terms, this means that neither spouse is at fault for the end of the marriage. Nothing specific or plainly traumatic happened to cause an immediate break-up. The union just cannot be repaired. Neither spouse must present evidence of a reason for the divorce. The fact that one or both parties want a divorce is enough for a state to allow no-fault divorce. This also means the court does not have a bias against either party regarding alimony/spousal support or property division. 

No specific person is to blame for a no-fault divorce. And every state has some version of no-fault divorce. 

States might use different language to describe a breakup that is not based on one person’s fault. Illinois uses the term “irretrievable breakdown” to describe a no-fault divorce. Other states use words like “irreconcilable differences” or “incompatibility” to indicate no fault. 

If you are contemplating divorce, you’ll want to read “36 Things to Do If You are Thinking About Divorce.”

Why Choose a No-Fault Divorce?

You might choose a no-fault divorce for the ease and lack of expense it brings. Because you do not need to prove blame in court, these divorces tend to be quicker and less expensive than a fault-based option. Another reason for no-fault divorce is property division, alimony, and child custody. The court will look at these factors fairly under state laws and allocate resources without prejudice to either party. 

SAS Tip: A no-fault divorce will always be cheaper than a fault-based divorce.

Check out: “What is an Amicable Divorce? And 5 Ways to Ensure One.”

What is a Fault-Based Divorce?

A fault-based divorce means there is a legal, evidence-based finding of fault that caused the marriage to end. Legal grounds for fault are far more stringent than the colloquial definition of fault. For example, your spouse might be done with the marriage and stop putting in the effort, which might seem like it would be their fault the marriage dissolved. However, this would not be considered a fault in the eyes of the law. 

A court will allow you to file a divorce based on fault only if: the state provides for fault-based divorces, and you (or your spouse) can prove the other person’s wrong actions directly caused the divorce. States that recognize fault-based divorces have slightly different categories of fault.

However, the most common categories that are recognized as grounds for fault are: cruelty (which means one spouse inflicting extreme/unnecessary emotional or physical pain), adultery, abandonment (after a certain period of time), incurable insanity, imprisonment, and the inability to engage in sexual intercourse to completion IF a spouse didn’t disclose it before the marriage. Other categories might include sexual desertion (your spouse refuses to have sexual intercourse over an extended period of time), a prior continuing marriage, or substance abuse.

If you are beginning the divorce process, you will want to know how best to protect yourself and also, how to ensure the healthiest outcomes. Read “55 Must-Do’s on Your Modern Divorce Checklist.”

Why Choose a Fault-Based Divorce?

A person might choose a fault-based ground for divorce for specific strategic reasons. Fault grounds overpass the separation waiting period required in some states. Some states also consider fault in distributing property or alimony. A state can alter or give alimony based on a finding of fault. Finally, some people also might choose to file a fault-based ground for emotional reasons, you might need the closure or reassurance that a legal finding of fault can bring.

Fault-based divorces are generally more time-consuming than no-fault divorces.

Fault-based divorces tend to require a lawyer’s expertise to accomplish this successfully. A lawyer will need to compile evidence and present it to the court to show that your case qualifies for fault-based grounds and that you have the proper evidence to prove it in court. A lawyer will ensure this is done properly and follows that protocol, which is very difficult without legal training and experience. This is at least one reason why, if you are consulting attorneys about your case, you should not look for cheap divorce lawyers. Training and expertise matter.

History of Fault-Based and No-Fault Divorces

Traditionally, a couple needed a fault for a state to grant a divorce (see Divorce Laws: Then and Now.) Courts would only give “innocent” spouses a divorce. That innocent spouse would have to be found not guilty of traditional fault grounds to be granted the divorce. This was because the court wanted to protect the sanctity of marriage. Lawmakers wanted to encourage married couples to stay together for life, barring some extreme events, and keep divorces from clogging court dockets. No divorce would be granted if both spouses were “guilty” of a fault ground. 

This purely fault-based system led to increased divorce fraud. Couples might lie about the issues in their marriage to get a divorce. This proved incredibly timely and costly for state courts, so in 1969, California became the first state to incorporate no-fault separations. This paved the way for the presumption of no-fault splits to this day, with New York being the last state to offer no-fault divorces in 2010. 

What are my options?

Divorce law varies by state. Make sure you know the laws of your state before you begin the process. Your ability to enter a no-fault or fault-based divorce depends entirely on the state in which you live. States can generally be divided into two groups, true no-fault states, and optional no-fault states.

A true no-fault state is one in which your only option is to file a no-fault complaint

Seventeen states have removed the fault-based option. These true no-fault states are Wisconsin, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Nebraska, Montana, Missouri, Minnesota, Michigan, Kentucky, Kansas, Iowa, Indiana, Hawaii, Florida, Colorado, and California. Only filing as no-fault can be frustrating if you want the law to acknowledge your spouse’s wrongdoing. However, it is more efficient, less expensive to all parties, and fairer across the board. 

A fault state allows you to choose whether you want to file on a no-fault or fault-based ground.

The other thirty-three states offer the option to file for divorce under a fault or no-fault ground. This means that the person filing for divorce can decide to file in the way that would be most beneficial to their specific circumstance.

SAS Tip: Know what you want out of your divorce. This will help you to decide whether a no-fault or fault-based divorce (if allowed) is best for you. As a beginning step, meet with a divorce coach to help you learn how to evaluate and prioritize things.


While all divorces take some level of fault for them to fall apart, they don’t all qualify for fault-based grounds. Understanding whether your state recognizes fault-based divorces and the definition of fault will help you understand your divorce options. Speaking with someone who understands the divorce process like a divorce lawyer or a divorce coach will help you gain the perspective you need to manage your expectations and make the right decision.


Elizabeth Newland is a third-year law student in Chicago committed to children and family rights. She aims to work in a family-related non-profit firm after graduation. 

Since 2012, SAS for Women is entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience and its confusing afterward. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists, and support strategies for you and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected

*We support same-sex marriages. For the sake of simplicity in this article, however, we refer to your spouse as your “husband” or a “he.”