Divorce Law consists of much more than deciding who gets to keep the large-screen television set. There are a few types of divorces that are recognized in the American court system. The first is absolute divorce. Absolute divorce is a complete divorce and separation in the eyes of the legal system and is referred to as “divorce a vinculo matrimonii.” In order to obtain an absolute divorce, U.S. Courts require that at least one of the spouses can be shown to be at fault of some sort of wrongdoing or misconduct. In the event of an absolute divorce, the marriage is officially terminated and both spouses are legally required to change their marriage status to single.
However, more than a few states have begun to enact no-fault divorce statutes. No-fault divorce statutes allow an absolute divorce to be enacted even though no fault has been shown on the part of either spouse. In order for a no-fault divorce to be recognized by the courts, four elements have to be met. First, the relationship between the spouses is no longer operable. Second, there are differences between the spouses in the marriage that have caused the marriage to be in a state of beyond repair. Third, that the differences in the marriage are to such an extent that harboring or repairing the relationship between the spouses cannot be done. Fourth, that the marriage is irreparably broken.
The courts also recognize limited divorce and refer to it by the term, “divorce a menso et thoro.” Limited divorce differs from absolute divorce in that the state permits the couple to live apart from one another, but requires them to retain their legal status as married.
A third type of divorce that is recognized in many states is “conversion divorce.” A conversion divorce allows what started as a legal separation recognized by the state to “convert” into a valid divorce after the time allocated by the statute has passed.
A large part of most, if not every, divorce proceeding is the allocation of jointly held property. In the past, the courts very much favored the spouse who was the wage earner. That is not the case anymore as the courts have been more willing to recognize the value of taking care of the household and other duties
During a divorce, two different types of property are recognized: marital property and separate property. Marital property is any property that is jointly or individually held and/or acquired during the course of marriage. Separate property is any property that was acquired and held before the start of the marriage. The courts, in awarding property to each spouse, aim to award property on a fair and justifiable scale. This does not always mean an equal scale. Factors such as liability for the divorce, length of the marriage, earning capacity, value of the separate property, contributions to the marriage monetarily and contributions to the house-hold are all factors that the court considers when determining the allocation of property in the marriage.
The courts may force one of the parties to pay alimony to the other party. The payments of alimony may be permanent, temporary or in the form of rehabilitation. Temporary and permanent payments are very similar. The two differ in that the length of time for a temporary alimony payment plan is determined by the length of time of the property division and the length of time of rehabilitation pay is determined by the amount of time it takes for the party receiving payments to fuller integrate into society.