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Frequently Asked Questions for Family Law

I am getting divorced. Do I need an attorney?

It ordinarily is a good idea to consult with a lawyer about major life events or changes, such as a divorce. S/he will protect your rights, as well as the rights of your children. S/he keeps current with the laws in your state concerning marriage, divorce, marital property, child custody and visitation, and family support.

How do courts determine who gets custody of children in a divorce?

If the parents cannot agree on custody of their child, the courts decide custody based on “the best interests of the child.” Determining the child’s best interests involves many factors, no one of which is the most important factor.

Source: Atkinson, Jeff, The American Bar Association Guide to Family Law, 1996.

What are the legal grounds for obtaining a divorce?

The grounds for divorce depend on the state, and may be based on no-fault or fault. A no-fault divorce is available in some form in all 50 states; many states also have fault-based grounds as an additional option. A no-fault divorce is one in which neither the husband nor the wife officially blames the other for the breakdown of the marriage. Common bases for no-fault divorce are “irreconcilable differences,” “irretrievable breakdown” or “incompatibility.” Another common basis for no-fault divorce is that the parties have lived separately for a certain period of time (varies from state to state) with the intent that the separation be permanent. The list of grounds for a fault-based divorce may include: adultery, physical cruelty, mental cruelty, attempted murder, desertion, habitual drunkenness, use of addictive drugs, insanity, impotency, and infection of one’s spouse with venereal disease.

Source: Atkinson, Jeff, The American Bar Association Guide to Family Law, 1996.

If my spouse cheated on me can I sue him/her for divorce on the grounds of adultery?

Whether or not you can sue for any “grounds” depends on what state you live in. Most states have adopted no-fault divorce laws meaning a divorce action can be brought against a spouse without the need for a reason. Be sure to check with a local attorney to find out what your state’s laws are concerning grounds for divorce. On the other hand, if your spouse had cheated the negative behavior can come into play during divorce settlement negotiations. For instance, if a cheating husband/wife spends marital funds on the other woman/man the courts will take this into consideration when considering how marital assets are divided. A competent divorce attorney will be able to answer any questions you have about how your local court deals with such situations.

What do I have to do to get the divorce process started?

There has to be a petition for divorce filed with your local court clerk. You can do this through a divorce attorney or you can do it Pro Se without the benefit of an attorney. Once a petition for divorce is filed, your spouse will have a certain number of days in which to respond to the petition.Once a petition has been filed, the court clerk will stamp it and give it a case number. Once it is given a case number and your spouse responds the court will set a date for either a hearing for temporary court orders or mediation.

Frequently Asked Questions for Bankruptcy

Chapter 7 Chapter 13
Type of Bankruptcy Liquidation Reorganization
Who Can File? Individuals and Business Entities Individuals Only (Including Sole Proprietors)
Eligibility Restrictions Disposable Income Must Be Low Enough to Pass the Chapter 7 Means Test Cannot Have More Than $394,7255 of Unsecured Debt or $1,184,200 of Secured Debt
How Long Does It Take to Receive a Discharge? Typically Three to Five Months Upon Completion of All Plan Payments (Usually Three to Five Years)
What Happens to Property in Bankruptcy? Trustee Can Sell All Nonexempt Property to Pay Creditors Debtors Keep All Property But Must Pay Unsecured Creditors an Amount Equal to Value of Nonexempt Assets
Allows Removing Unsecured Junior Liens from Real Property Through Lien Stripping? No Yes (If Requirements Are Satisfied) (Learn about lien stripping.)
Allows Reducing the Principal Loan Balance on Secured Debts Through a Loan Cramdown? No Yes (If Requirements Are Satisfied) (Learn about cramdowns in bankruptcy.)
Benefits Allows Debtors to Quickly Discharge Most Debts and Get a Fresh Start Allows Debtors to Keep Their Property and Catch Up on Missed Mortgage, Car, and Nondischargeable Priority Debt Payments
Drawbacks Trustee Can Sell Nonexempt Property. Does Not Provide a Way to Catch Up on Missed Payments to Avoid Foreclosure or Repossession. Must Make Monthly Payments to the Trustee for Three to Five Years. May Have to Pay Back a Portion of General Unsecured Debts.

Source: https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/what-is-the-difference-between-chapter-7-chapter-13-bankrutpcy.html


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