Divorce or Separation

There are 3 main ways to end a marriage: divorce, legal separation, and annulment. It is not necessary for both spouses or domestic partners to agree to end the marriage. Either spouse can decide to end the marriage, and the other spouse, even if he or she does not want to get a divorce, cannot stop the process by refusing to participate in the case. If a spouse or domestic partner does not participate in the divorce case, the other spouse will still be able to get a “default” judgment and the divorce will go through.

After you decide how you want to end your marriage, you need to plan your case ahead of time. Think about how you are going to handle your case. Planning before you start and talking to a divorce lawyer can save you time and money as you go through the court process. And keep in mind that, normally, it does not matter who is the first to file the divorce or separation case. The court does not give any preference to the first person to file or a disadvantage to the person who responds to the case.

Federal law does not recognize domestic partnerships for most purposes, such as Medicare, immigration law, veterans’ benefits, and federal tax laws. Domestic partners may be recognized for some federal purposes, such as Social Security. In addition, domestic partners may not have the same rights because other states may not recognize domestic partnerships. Talk to a lawyer if you are ending a domestic partnership and any of these issues may apply to you. You may also want to talk to an accountant who is knowledgeable about these issues.

The family law facilitator or self-help center in your court may be able to help you with the divorce or legal separation process and help you understand what your options are, decide what you want to do, and get started with your paperwork. You can also talk to a lawyer to get legal advice.

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