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Q: Saw movie SWEET HOME ALABAMA, but raises a question/s about divorce USA style?? ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: Saw movie SWEET HOME ALABAMA, but raises a question/s about divorce USA style??
Category: Family and Home > Relationships
Asked by: johnfrommelbourne-ga
List Price: $7.00
Posted: 14 Jan 2003 03:02 PST
Expires: 13 Feb 2003 03:02 PST
Question ID: 142442
As at heading I just saw this relatively recent release, which
although quite good I can now understand why audience was around 60%
female. That is incidental to this question which is to find out just
a little more about how divorce works in the USA, which from what I
saw on this new movie is not at all straightforward and/or simple.  I
am speaking from a position of having gone through divorce Aussie
style and in the knowledge that relative to the rest of the world the
mechanics of our divorce system may appear simple to some, if not too
easy. Over here what happened on S.H.A where one party held up the
divorce of other party to marriage for 7 years would not be possible
as only one party needs to file for divorce here regardless of the
views of other party. In practice there is a "no fault" procedure
whereby advice via a fill-in form is sent to family court advising
that husband & wife have been separated for 12 months at which point
the family court basically rubber stamps the divorce paper advising
that effect will take place in one month unless both parties change
their mind. It has been that way for many  many years although of late
there is arguments that the system takes away the dignity of marriage
and that divorce should not be so easy and quick. This view is  only
slowly gaining currency. With the above info on Aussie divorce in mind
is there similar simplistic approaches to divorce in some states in
the USA, are there wide variances in divorce laws perhaps from state
to state, and is there any states which still require the intrusive
and old-fashioned procedure of having to argue to a court of law for
divorce citing adultery,cruelty  etc etc; in effect having a third
party,a court, decide if one can be divorced or not.
Subject: Re: Saw movie SWEET HOME ALABAMA, but raises a question/s about divorce USA sty
Answered By: expertlaw-ga on 14 Jan 2003 04:41 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Dear johnfrommelbourne,

Divorce laws in the United States do vary significantly from state to
state. The table available through the following link, from the
Separated Parenting Access and Resource Center, provides an overview
of each state's divorce laws, indicating which states follow a fault,
no-fault, or mixed model, and some of the acceptable grounds for
divorce in fault states:

In states which do not permit "no fault" divorces, or which forbid "no
fault" divorces where one of the spouses objects, it becomes necessary
to establish fault on the part of one of the parties.

If you have seen old American movies, where divorce is depicted, you
have probably seen references to "mental cruelty" as a basis for
divorce. Historically, this was the way couples typically worked
around "fault" laws when they wanted a divorce - one (usually the
husband) would admit to fault, using nebulous but acceptable language,
and the court would grant the divorce on the basis of that admission.
However, this custom has become strained by custody laws which permit,
and sometimes require, courts to consider abusive conduct by a party
when making grants of child custody and parenting time (visitation). A
parent is much less likely to admit to fault in order to obtain a
divorce, if that admission will affect child custody.

Further, admissions typically become part of the public court record,
and there have been some prominent individuals who have been
embarrassed by public disclosure of fault allegations from the court
files associated with their divorces. The Divorce Source website
reproduces an article from the National Legal Research Group, Inc.,
"The Admissibility And Relevance Of Prior Bad Acts In Child Custody
Cases", which discusses how various admissions or incidents of past
misconduct may affect custody:

A case that comes to mind, where allegations made in divorce
proceedings were made public, involves the prominent (some would say
"infamous") American lawyer, Geoffrey Fieger. When Mr. Fieger ran for
public office, those allegations received significant media coverage.
For example, the Detroit Free Press ran an article, "Fieger's
skeletons won't stay buried", detailing allegations of physically and
verbally abusive conduct:

It should also be noted that, even in "no fault" states, fault may
remain a factor for issues other than divorce. For example, Michigan
permits fault to be argued as a basis for an unequal division of the
marital estate. Also, various forms of conduct which might amount to
"fault" may be relevant to a contest over child custody. As the
Divorce Source article linked above indicates, the bad acts which may
affect custody are a subset of those typically cited in an action for
a fault-based divorce. Most states, for example, will no longer
consider adultery (committed outside of the presence of the children)
as a basis for a child custody decision, even though it remains as a
ground for a fault-based divorce.

In Michigan, every few years the legislature makes noises about
repealing "no fault" divorce, and restoring a fault-based system, more
or less for the same reasons you recite in your question. This
inspires discussion of the issue at gatherings of matrimonial lawyers.
During those discussions, the following points are typically raised:

- The divorce rate is unlikely to decrease with a repeal of "no
- The repeal of "no fault" would make divorce even more bitter and
- The group that would most benefit from the repeal would be divorce
- There is irony in the fact that legislators, who on the whole
divorce at a rate significantly above the national average, wish to
impose restrictions on the rights of other people to obtain divorces.

Incidentally, despite the fact that divorce lawyers know that they
would benefit financially from the repeal of no fault, I have yet to
meet one who supports repeal on that basis. The typical divorce lawyer
vehemently opposes its repeal. Those who disfavor no fault typically
oppose it on the basis of their religious beliefs.

Research Strategy:

In addition to experience as a lawyer, I utilized the following Google

- divorce "fault states"

- divorce alleged drunkenness abuse

- Fieger divorce

I hope you find this helpful. If you require additional details,
please don't hesitate to request clarification.

- expertlaw
johnfrommelbourne-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
yes thanks expertlaw, that was  quite enough to get a more sound
understanding of current situation especially with the state by state
list added.  Cant see how I could not rate an expert in law and a
lawyer to boot anything other than five stars, and with smaller fee
offered in mind as well. I bet you get to do all the law related
questions, and hoping you are not a divorcee.

 Thanks again,

 John From melbourne

Subject: Re: Saw movie SWEET HOME ALABAMA, but raises a question/s about divorce USA style??
From: neilzero-ga on 14 Jan 2003 12:01 PST
Gennerally the devorce lawyers are greedy and stretch out the devorce
proceedure for a year or more to justify extra fees, even in Florida
which has only no fault devorce.  Neil

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