There many different factors to consider during a divorce, including child custody, child support, filing fees, alimony and property division, to name a few. Deciding which state is best or worst to file a divorce in may vary, depending on which factors are the most important to the individuals who are seeking the separation. However, many divorces have a lot in common, and some groups have created different metrics to measure how easy it is to finalize a divorce in each state.
Ease of Filing
FindTheData.org compiled information from the American Bar Association and the websites of individual states and then ranked states from best to worst based on a variety of factors, including how easy it is to file, how much it costs and how long a divorce takes to process. According to that metric, the five easiest states to get a divorce in are Alaska, South Dakota, Wyoming, Iowa and Washington. Alaska received an ease of filing score of 100 with a filing fee of $150 and a minimum processing time of 30 days. Washington came in fifth place with an overall score of 91, a filing fee of $280 and a 90-day minimum processing time.
The same list rated Arkansas, New Jersey, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Vermont as the five toughest states for divorce. Arkansas got the lowest score at 20 percent. The fee is a reasonable $165, but the processing time is high at 540 days (almost a year and a half). Vermont ranked as the fifth worst state for divorce with a filing fee of $265 and a minimum 450-day processing period.
Another list, complied by Bloomberg News, found that New Hampshire as the best state to get divorced in because a person only needs to be a resident there for one day to file for a divorce, and the filer must only pay a fee of $180. Interestingly, New Hampshire also has the lowest rate of divorce out of all fifty states.
Child Custody, Support and Alimony
Couples with children are likely to have different criteria than childless couples when it comes to divorce. All states use the best interests of children as their criteria for creating child custody laws. Some states may favor custody for mothers, whereas others may decide custody on an individual basis and others tend towards joint custody arrangements.
According to the chairman of the American Bar Association’s Section on Family Law, the state of Texas makes it difficult to obtain alimony, while California will typically award ten times the amount of child support than Nevada or Georgia. However, spouse who can prove that the other has been unfaithful will not have to pay alimony in the state of Georgia.
Another important factor to consider when divorcing is whether the state has equitable or community distribution of property laws. The following states follow community property laws: Wisconsin, Washington, Texas, New Mexico, Nevada, Louisiana, Idaho, California and Arizona. All other states are governed by equitable distribution laws.
States that follow community property law consider all income and assets as owned equally by both spouses, and when the couple divorces, the assets are split in half. On the other hand, states that follow equitable distribution laws attempt to divide the property fairly, taking into consideration each person’s earning potential and the value of each person’s contributions to the martial, for example. In an equitable property state, a spouse may receive between one to two thirds of the total marital assets.
Fault versus No-Fault
Some states offer no-fault divorce without a waiting period, while others require proof of grounds for divorce in order to circumvent the normal waiting period. For example, in Tennessee, if one spouse has made an attempt to take the other’s life by poison or other malicious means, fault may be found and a divorce granted. Also a spouse who has an addition to substance in Idaho or a spouse who has deserted the other for a period of three years in Maine may both be found at fault.