Divorce Rights for Women

If you are a woman on the brink of divorcing your husband for whatever reason, I know this question is at the top of your list. Divorce rights are something we never learn until we find ourselves needing this crucial information. Most of my clients get their initial information from a friend or family member who has been divorced.

This is typically a mistake since every case is different. Not to mention the fact that divorce laws vary from state to state, and divorce results can even vary from county to county in many states. If you are facing divorce, this is one question you must answer pretty quickly, so you can make good strategic decisions from the very beginning. And if you’re smart, the “beginning” of the process starts long before you actually file for divorce. So just what are your divorce rights?

One thing most people don’t think about when they get ready to file for divorce is that laws are generally passed to protect the rights of both parties in a marriage, in theory, anyway. Another thing you should understand is that not all states’ laws are the same with regard to divorce. For example, different states have different laws on distribution of marital property, how to determine alimony, and how child support is calculated, just to name a few.

One of the most common questions women have about their divorce rights is whether they can qualify for spousal support, or alimony – or whether they may have to pay support to their soon-to-be-ex. If you want to receive support, there are legal factors defined in your state laws that will apply. You can’t just say you’re entitled to it. You’ll need to provide evidence that fulfills the statutory requirements to qualify for support. Don’t just assume that because you make less than your soon-to-be-ex that you are automatically entitled to alimony. Do your homework!

The first thing you need to do is get your hands on as many of your family financial records as possible. If you are the breadwinner that means coming to terms with the fact that if you make the money, you are going to need to provide some support for some time to your spouse who makes less, especially if that spouse has been providing significant parenting support for your children and/or  has not been in the workforce for awhile.

Another divorce right women are concerned about is how to get the best child custody arrangement. Again, you need to do your homework. Although every jurisdiction is a little different, these days father’s rights as parents are fully recognized by most courts and chances are good, barring a major issue like drug use or se orders abuse, you will probably end up in some kind of joint custody arrangement of your children rather than permanent, sole custody.

Divorce rights for women also cover issues such as restraining orders, which are clearly necessary for women who are divorcing controlling, emotionally abusive and/or physically brutalizing husbands. A restraining order is a possibility for you during the divorce proceedings if you can satisfy the restraining order criterion set forth in your state statutes. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s best to seek the help of a domestic violence clinic, or a lawyer familiar with this issue. Again, your state will have clear factors that must be met in order to obtain a restraining order. Keep in mind that these orders have serious consequences for individuals who have them entered against them. Jobs can be lost, or never obtained if there is a DV order in the court file.  And violation of a restraining order can be a criminal violation in most states. So, judges take these seriously. Be sure you have full information about what evidence you need before you go to court and try to get a DV order.

One divorce right many women don’t think about is that they have the right in most states to get a court order that freezes assets. This is important when you think there is any possibility that your soon-to-be-ex may liquidate funds or close bank accounts. Keep in mind that even with one of these financial restraining orders on place, your ex can still violate the order, and once the money is gone, it’s gone for good. Its’ best to talk to a lawyer about a financial restraining order of you have assets that need to be protected during the divorce process.

You may harbor the idea that you have a right to stop your divorce. But that is not a right you have in most states unless both parties agree to this.  In most states, once a divorce proceeding is initiated, it will proceed. Once you file for divorce, your marriage is no longer in your hands anymore, but in the hands of your state court.

The best way to protect yourself in the divorce process is to educate yourself about the process in every way you can. You only have one shot at a fair divorce, so learn as much you can about your divorce rights as soon as you make the decision to leave your marriage. And if you are the recipient of divorce papers, time is of the essence. You need information about your divorce rights, and you need it quickly!

Amanda DuBois is a Seattle Family Law Attorney with 20 years of experience helping women out of complicated marriages. She is a published author, a radio personality, and the developer of the Divorganize Divorce Support and Education Program, a 17 video series covering all aspects of Divorce Strategies for Women. If you live in the Seattle area, and need help from a great and caring Seattle Child Custody Attorney, contact Amanda at (206)547-1486.

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