Divorce is an important decision. If a couple has irreconcilable differences, there may be no other option for them. Divorce can be an emotional process that extends beyond just ending a marriage. A divorce is a complicated series of steps and speaking with an attorney is always recommended. The process of divorce can be a quick process or, in more contested cases, take longer to resolve. Grounds for divorce, property distribution, spousal support, child custody, and child support are just a few of the factors one should consider when filing for divorce. In Delaware, child custody and support matters are not involved in the divorce petition and must be filed separately. Either party must be a resident of Delaware for at least 6 months to proceed. In Delaware, the court will not begin divorce proceedings until the couple has lived separately for at least 6 months. They may then call for a no-fault divorce or one must prove grounds for misconduct. Furthermore, if a child is involved in the case, both parents must take a Parent Education Class and the Court will not proceed with the case until you file the certificate of completion.
If the parties have lived separately for 6 months, one has documented grounds for misconduct or both agree to a no-fault divorce, the divorce proceedings can commence. One or both parties must file the Petition for Divorce in the county where either resides, serve the petition, and complete the parent education class, if a child is involved, in order to become trial ready. The court will not take the case until all steps are taken.
Grounds for misconduct may include:
- Physical or mental abuse
- Drug or alcohol addiction
The length of time it will take to finalize the divorce depends on if it is contested or not. Contested divorce may occur when the defendant files an Answer challenging the information. If so, a hearing will automatically be scheduled. A petition is considered uncontested if the person responding does not file an Answer within 20 days of filing a petition. An uncontested petition gives the plaintiff the option to have the court decide based on the papers filed or, if they choose, after having a hearing.
If one’s petition requests that the court decide on a separation of marital property or debt, awarding alimony, or fees for an attorney, both parties will have to jointly complete and file form 465, or a Rule 16c Financial Report, which comes after the divorce decree. Both must be honest on the financial report and any deviation may result in penalties ranging from one party paying the other’s attorney fee to the court passing a default judgment or dismissal against the guilty party. If the parties cannot agree on the split of assets and debt, Delaware courts will judge with a system of equitable division, which means that they will judge as fairly as possible with the factors documented by each party. This financial report will decide the property division and possible alimony awarded to each party.
Divorce may not involve just the two parties. If children are involved, the court will have to address possible child support, custody, and visitation. Parents in Delaware are responsible for the financial support of their children until the age of 18. In the case that they are still in high school, 19 years of age or graduation from high school, whichever comes first. The Court must also decide on the legal and physical custody of a child and the Court prefers no parent. The child’s best interests will always be the priority.
Divorce can be a grueling, emotional process and having the right attorney by your side will protect your rights and help you make the correct decisions. Whether you file a no-fault divorce or enter a contested case, consult an attorney that knows the laws and has the compassion to ease you through this hard time. Speak with an attorney at Mattleman, Weinroth & Miller, P.C. in order to receive the best outcome to your legal matter.