Divorce is the legal process whereby married couples or those in civil unions, either amicably or not, dissolve their marriage along with its rights and obligations according to state law. Also called marital dissolution, the legal process determines issues of child custody, spousal and child support, and the distribution of assets and debts. Consider consulting a divorce lawyer in Delaware if you are divorcing your spouse since there may also be complex tax ramifications.
Do You Need an Attorney?
There may be some situations where a marriage of short duration with no children and few assets may be resolved quickly and easily, but most divorces are complicated with child and financial issues; agreements are difficult to achieve, especially in acrimonious breakups where the couples have little trust in each other.
Through investigation and discovery, your Delaware divorce lawyer can uncover hidden assets or sources of income and protect your interests under Delaware’s divorce laws.
Getting a Divorce
Delaware is a no-fault state so it is not necessary to allege specific grounds for the dissolution. Prior to filing for a Delaware divorce, establish residency in the state for at least six months before initiating a Petition for Divorce and Decree of Divorce, and indicate on the Petition that you have been separated for six months. Only the Petitioner is obligated to meet the residency requirement.
Separation implies living apart, but the law permits estranged couples to live in the same home so long as they do not sleep in the same bedroom or have had sexual relations within 30 days immediately before the court hears the Petition. The separation requirement establishes the grounds for irretrievable breakdown of the marriage with no chance for reconciliation.
After filing the Petition for Divorce and indicating on the document that the divorce is contested, the answering party, or Respondent, has 20 days to file an Answer. At some point in the process, you will have to submit an Affidavit of Children’s Rights if you and your spouse or partner has a child under the age of 18.
If there are children, the court may require you to attend and complete a parent education class and file a Certificate of Completion, unless the court deems it unnecessary. A Public Health/Vital Statistics form is submitted along with a certified copy of your Marriage Certificate or Certificate of Civil Union. Both parties must also file a Financial Report, which is extensive and comprehensive.
The Family Court will not proceed or determine the case to be ready for trial until you have been separated for at least six months, unless you alleged grounds of misconduct along with supporting facts and documentation.
Should you and your spouse or partner agree to the terms of your dissolution, indicate on the Petition that it is uncontested and that you are requesting a hearing, or ask the court to approve it based solely on the documents submitted. You should file a Separation Agreement that contains the terms of your divorce if you want the court to enforce it.
If you want your uncontested divorce to be decided on the documents alone without a hearing, the court will send you a Notice of Trial Readiness along with a description of the forms needed to be filed within 20 days.
Property and Debt Distribution
As an equitable distribution state, the Delaware courts will—in a contested matter—divide, distribute, and assign the marital property of the parties after considering such factors as:
- duration of the marriage
- age and health of each party
- sources of income, employability, and financial needs of each party
- contribution of the parties to the marriage
- economic circumstances of each party
Getting Help from a Divorce Attorney
Delaware’s divorce laws are fluid and are constantly being amended, modified, or discarded. Speak to a Delaware divorce lawyer to discuss how the various divorce rules, laws, and related tax regulations affect you, and to ensure your rights and interests are adequately represented.