Dissolving a marriage can be complicated, with laws governing custody, property distribution, and support varying widely between states. Here is a synopsis for Idaho.
Will You Require an Attorney?
Although reasonably intelligent individuals can complete their own paperwork necessary for divorce, consulting an attorney will ensure that your documents are in order and concerns are adequately addressed. Legal professionals also can raise awareness of issues that can become future problems.
Idaho law allows annulments, which declare that the marriage never existed. An annulment sometimes is desired for religious purposes. Grounds must be cited and there are time limits in some instances, so the annulment process can be complicated. Couples also can negotiate legally binding separation agreements that divide property and establish custody, but do not legally dissolve the marriage.
Grounds for Divorce
Idaho permits no-fault divorces, meaning that the petitioning spouse is not required to have grounds beyond "irreconcilable differences." A no-fault divorce is not always automatically granted, but few judges want to force someone to stay married against their will. The petitioning party also can cite grounds for divorce such as infidelity, a felony conviction of the other spouse, or desertion. The other party can fight a fault-divorce petition, but again, judges seldom force people to remain married. At least one party must be a state resident for six weeks before filing for divorce in Idaho.
Tools such as mediation and negotiation can assist spouses in reaching agreements on matters such as custody, property division, and maintenance (spousal support) without the expense of protracted litigation. Mediation is not required, but it is encouraged and practical—reaching an agreement eliminates the risk of an unfavorable ruling and saves court time.
For urgent issues such as child custody and support or spousal maintenance, attorneys can request temporary orders. The terms of the orders can become permanent if the conditions work well for all parties. Sometimes a single order can dispense with myriad issues if both parties are in agreement and there are amicable co-parenting arrangements and minimal assets. For contentious cases, separate filings frequently become necessary. Protective or restraining orders are a possibility for individuals who fear an estranged spouse.
Property and Debts
Idaho is a community property state, which means that all assets obtained during the marriage are assumed to belong equally to both partners. If spouses cannot reach an agreement, the judge will allocate marital property and debt equally. Not all assets are marital property, however. Items obtained before the marriage or bestowed as an individual gift during its duration often are individual property not subject to distribution as community property.
Custody and Support
There are two types of custody, and state law favors joint custody in most situations. Legal custody sets parameters for making medical and other decisions about the care of children; physical custody determines where and with whom the children will live. Visitation and support are separate issues, with child support determined by a formula. Support also has tax ramifications—individuals receiving spousal support must pay taxes on it, while child support is not taxed. Other tax implications of divorce include filing status and deciding which party will claim dependents on tax returns.
Reaching agreements on parenting issues is easy in some divorces; others require mediation, which can be ordered in Idaho, or a judicial ruling to achieve resolution. Many jurisdictions require independent custody evaluations and parenting workshops.
Medical matters such as health insurance and payment of healthcare expenses frequently become controversial in dissolutions. Usually spouses who have been providing family insurance coverage will be expected to continue doing so for a specific period.
Women may retain their married surnames or return to any previous name, but requests for name changes must be incorporated into the final decree. Some divorce orders can be modified later if either party is dissatisfied with a requirement and returns to court to ask the judge for a change.
Contact a Local Divorce Attorney
This article is an overview of Idaho divorce law. For specific questions consult a local attorney.