Couples have several options for divorce. Here’s everything you need to know about the different types of divorce.

Related: 9 Divorce Options: Which is Right For Me?

Fault Divorce and No-Fault Divorce

Only certain state courts offer fault divorce. A fault divorce is when one spouse files for divorce because the other spouse violated a fault ground to cause the marriage to end. The spouse filing for a fault divorce must prove their spouse’s fault to the court.

In most states, a spouse can file for fault divorce for any of the following grounds:

  • Adultery
  • Abandonment or desertion
  • Physical or substance abuse
  • Prison time
  • Impotency

Spouses may choose fault divorce because the fault grounds can influence the judge’s decision on asset division in the divorce. Couples may choose fault divorce because of its quick process if a spouse can prove fault. A spouse filing for a fault divorce must be aware the other spouse can legally defend themself. Couples may only file for a fault divorce in states where judges consider fault grounds for divorce.

Judges can grant no-fault divorces in every state. No-fault divorces occur when a spouse files for divorce without blaming the other spouse for the unsuccessful marriage. The individual filing for a no-fault divorce must prove the marriage is irretrievable. A spouse can file for a no-fault divorce even if the other spouse disagrees. A judge can grant a no-fault divorce if one spouse requests the divorce for a valid reason, but a judge cannot penalize the other spouse even if they faulted during the marriage.

Spouses may choose to file for a no-fault divorce because of its efficient process. A judge can grant the divorce if one spouse says the marriage is irretrievable. Spouses who live separately before filing for divorce may choose to file for no-fault divorce because the separation does not put either spouse at fault.

Default Divorce

A default divorce occurs when one spouse files for divorce because the other spouse is unreachable or unresponsive. The court will serve the divorce papers to the uncooperative spouse and allow them to respond. If the receiving spouse does not respond to the divorce papers by the deadline, the court can grant a default divorce. If the spouse filing for divorce cannot locate or reach their spouse, they must conduct a diligent search to prove they are missing and not returning. The court can grant a default divorce if the receiving spouse is repeatedly absent at court hearings.

Spouses may choose to file for default divorce if their spouse is unreachable or unwilling to cooperate in a divorce. Individuals do not have to disclose financial information to the court. Default divorces can be a less expensive option for divorce because spouses do not have to pay for an attorney or hearings. Some couples may agree to a default divorce because of the confidential process. The spouse receiving the divorce papers can purposely not respond to the request on time so the default divorce can be granted.

Contested Divorce and Uncontested Divorce

A contested divorce is when the spouses filing for divorce disagree on the terms of their divorce. A contested divorce requires attorneys to represent both spouses. Each spouse may have to testify their terms for the divorce in front of a judge. The judge has the final say on the terms of the divorce. A contested divorce is one of the most expensive forms of divorce. Couples may get a contested divorce because they disagree on the terms of their divorce and have no other option.

An uncontested divorce is when both spouses agree on the divorce terms. The couple must draft a settlement agreement for the court’s approval. The court can finalize the divorce if both individuals sign and agree to the terms. Couples may choose uncontested divorce because it is an efficient and cooperative divorce process.

Related: Contested and Uncontested Divorce: The Difference

Summary Divorce

A summary divorce is when spouses agree to divorce without the help of an attorney and outside of the court’s mandate. Couples filing for summary divorce may not receive spousal support throughout the divorce or after the court finalizes the divorce. Couples must file for summary divorce and complete a settlement agreement for the court to approve.

Couples may only file for summary divorce if they meet the following requirements:

  • They do not have children
  • They do not own personal real estate
  • They were married for a short period
  • Neither spouse is in debt

Spouses may choose to file for summary divorce because the process can be a quick and inexpensive process handled outside of the court.

Choosing Which Type of Divorce is Right

Couples can choose which type of divorce is right to terminate their marriage based on the circumstances of their relationship. Spouses can file for different types of divorce based on their financial situation, whether or not they would like to involve an attorney if the spouses can agree on the terms of the divorce, and the state laws. Couples who do not want to go through any divorce process can seek alternative options like separation or annulment.

Related: How to Prepare for Divorce As a Stay-At-Home Mom

FAQs About Different Types of Divorce

What if I file for a fault divorce, and the court denies it?

The court will not grant an individual with a fault divorce in many states. If the court does not approve the fault divorce, the spouse filing for divorce can seek other divorce options like no-fault divorce.

What is the least expensive type of divorce?

Couples who are seeking the least expensive type of divorce should consider getting an uncontested divorce. Uncontested divorces avoid the cost of an attorney and court hearings. Couples can only get an uncontested divorce if they agree on all of the divorce terms and draft a settlement agreement together.

Can I remarry if my ex-spouse and I are legally separated?

No, individuals cannot remarry unless they are legally divorced.

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