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- Divorce laws vary in every state.
- In some states, like Utah, separating from your spouse can be a quick affair. In others, like California, divorce can be drawn out for months.
- In Texas, many courts in the state won’t finalize a divorce while a wife is pregnant.
Divorce is a painful and costly process with some divorces costing well into the hundreds of millions, so it’s important to know your state’s laws to make it as quick and easy as possible.
Some states are more accommodating than others. Utah’s waiting period can be as short as 30 days (or can be waved altogether in some circumstances), whereas California has a six-month minimum. States like Wisconsin prohibit divorced spouses to remarry anywhere in the world for at least six months.
Keep scrolling to see some of America’s most surprising divorce laws.
ALABAMA: The divorced wife may be legally prohibited from using the name of the divorced husband.
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According to HG.org, if a woman requests it during divorce proceedings, she may resume the use of her maiden name. The divorced wife may also be legally prohibited from using the name of the divorced husband.
ARKANSAS: Arkansas has strict covenant marriages.
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There are two kinds of marriages in Arkansas, covenant and non-covenant. A covenant marriage is much stricter. According to law encyclopedia Black’s Law, in a covenant marriage, “a divorce will be granted only after the couple has undergone marital counseling and has been separated for a specific period.”
Obtaining a divorce for a non-covenant marriage is easier. You only have to a prove 60-day residence before filing for a non-covenant divorce, whereas for a covenant divorce, you must prove you live in the state permanently.
CALIFORNIA: California divorces can take months — or even years.
According to HG.org, California’s divorce laws are notoriously complex. The state even offers a streamlined process called summary dissolution to avoid the normal, involved protocol. There are very specific qualifications for summary dissolution, however.
All in all, it takes at least six months for the divorce to finalize, according to DivorceNet.com, as this is the state’s mandatory waiting period.
COLORADO: Children who are involved in a divorce here may be required to attend an educational program on divorce.
Colorado’s divorce laws include a “parental education” option, in which a court may rule that the children (under 18) of the divorced parents must attend a program designed to “provide education concerning the impact of separation and divorce.”
DELAWARE: Spouses are required to be separated for at least six months before divorce proceedings can begin.
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In Delaware, spouses have to have been separated for at least six months prior to filing for divorce, except if you’re filing on grounds of misconduct. There’s also a requirement for a Parent Education class.
According to Delaware Courts, “If you and your spouse have children together, you must attend a Parent Education Class. The Court will not proceed with the divorce process until all of the required certificates of completion from the Parent Education Class have been submitted to the Court.”
HAWAII: You can get divorced in Hawaii even if you were married in a different state — or a different country.
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According to the Hawaii State Judiciary, if you were legally married in another state or another country but somehow settled in Hawaii, it’s no matter – you can still obtain a divorce in the state.
ILLINOIS: A person can file for divorce if a spouse gives the other a sexually transmitted disease.
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According to Black’s Law, a fault divorce is “a divorce granted to one spouse on the basis of some proven wrongful act (grounds for divorce) by the other spouse.” According to DivorceNet.com, some of the 11 grounds in Illinois include if one spouse is impotent, if one spouse has abandoned the other for a year or more, and if one spouse gives the other a sexually transmitted disease.
KENTUCKY: You have to have a divorce education certificate to file for divorce.
- Macall B. Polay/HBO
According to the supreme court of Kentucky, among the requirements for filing for divorce in Kentucky is a divorce education certificate. Divorce education programs providing these certificates vary in length and cost, according Kentucky courts, but all “focus on reducing a child’s anxiety, depression, and behavioral problems; recognizing parental conflict and how conflict impacts a child’s development; communicating effectively; responding appropriately to children’s divorce related concerns; and changing long-term roles from ex-spouses to co-parenting relationships.”
MINNESOTA: In Minnesota, there’s a shortcut for a fast divorce, but only if both parties are close to debt-free.
Minnesota offers a summary dissolution, a “shorter and easier” way to divorce, according to Minnesota courts. There are extensive requirements for qualifying, however. Some of them include having no children, neither party owning any real estate, and neither party having unpaid debts of $8,000 and up.
MISSISSIPPI: Impotence and “idiocy” are grounds for divorce.
If one spouse sues the other for divorce, according to the Mississippi bar, they must do so on one of 12 grounds. These include adultery, desertion, “natural impotency, insanity or idiocy, and a wife’s pregnancy by another person at the time of the marriage.”
MISSOURI: The state presumes a husband is the father of his wife’s children even if he’s not the biological father.
According to Missouri courts, “when a child is born to a woman while she is married or within 300 days after the termination of marriage, her spouse is presumed to be the legal father. A petition may be filed asking the court to find that the spouse is not the biological father or legal parent of the child or children born during the marriage.”
NEVADA: Couples who were “incapable of consenting” to marriage can get an easy annulment.
In a state with a hotbed of quick marriages (Las Vegas), the divorce laws in Nevada are pretty complex. There are grounds for annulments, however, and this may be a good option for couples whose situation is one in which “either party was incapable of consenting to a marriage due to lack of understanding,” according to HG.org.
NEW YORK: In New York, you must give a statement of net worth to divorce.
In order to proceed with a divorce in the state of New York, both spouses must give a statement of net worth in which all financial information is listed in detail – expenses, assets, debts, and income. According to the New York courts, it’s a sworn statement that “must be signed in front of a notary public before it is submitted.”
OKLAHOMA: Parties have to wait at least six months before remarrying.
After you’ve divorced in Oklahoma, it is mandatory to wait at least six months before remarrying anyone else from the state, unless that someone is your former spouse. Another exception is if your former spouse is deceased. You are allowed to marry someone who is from another state before the six months is up, but you can’t cohabit in Oklahoma with your new spouse.
OREGON: There is only one legal ground for divorce.
You can dissolve your marriage or domestic partnership in Oregon with no faults, as there is only one ground for divorce. Your marriage can be dissolved “when irreconcilable differences between the parties have caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage/domestic partnership,” according to HG.org.
RHODE ISLAND: Either spouse has to have lived in Rhode Island for at least one year to get divorced here.
For couples filing a no-fault divorce, either spouse has to have lived in Rhode Island for at least a year before filing for divorce and irreconcilable differences have to have caused the breakdown of the marriage, or the two have to have been separated for three years without a reconciliation, according to DivorceNet.com.
SOUTH DAKOTA: Spouses can be served their divorce summons via newspaper.
- Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
In South Dakota, a divorce summons and complaint must be served to the other spouse. If a spouse cannot be located after “diligent efforts,” it’s possible to serve their summons of divorce in a newspaper, according to the State bar of South Dakota. After being served, the spouse has 30 days to respond.
TEXAS: Most courts in Texas will not finalize a divorce while a spouse is pregnant.
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If a spouse is pregnant, it’s best to wait until after the baby is born to file for divorce in Texas. According to HG.org, most courts in the state will not finalize a divorce while a spouse is pregnant, even if the pregnancy is not a product of the marriage. Texas courts will usually wait until after the birth so that all rulings regarding the child can be included in the final decree.
UTAH: Parties may be able to divorce immediately.
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Utah is one of the quicker states in which to obtain a divorce, as the mandatory waiting period between filing and finalization is 30 days. According to Utah courts, a party can even ask to completely waive the waiting period, depending on their situation.
WISCONSIN: Once divorce is finalized, parties cannot remarry anywhere in the world for at least six months.
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In Wisconsin, there is a 120-day waiting period to get divorced, according to Wisconsin courts. Spouses do not have to give reasons for wanting a divorce and once the divorce is granted, neither party can remarry anywhere in the world for at least six months.
WYOMING: In Wyoming, one party must serve the other via the sheriff.
There are two ways one party can serve another a divorce summons in Wyoming, according to Wyoming courts. The first is through a local sheriff, who will serve the other party the summons. Conversely, the party receiving the summons can sign a form acknowledging they received the summons (and other relevant paperwork).
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