Most states in the U.S. permit permanent divorce where both parties return to their single status. This typically is done after a cooling off period where the parties live separately, that is, they are legally separated and cannot cohabit but are considered married to each other.
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At the time of the permanent divorce the courts will divide all marital property equitably. Here it is important to note that any property owned by a spouse before the marriage is considered separate property unless the other spouse was involved in improving it or increasing its value. Additionally, the courts are expected to divide the property equitably not equally. The division of the shared property takes into account the duration of the marriage, the contribution of each spouse to the marriage, and children and their custody.
Normally, if the marriage has been of long duration, then the spouse with the lower income or no income is entitled to a greater share of the marital property. This is especially so if the spouse gave up a paying job to look after the children or take up other home responsibilities. In such cases, the court will likely compensate the spouse financially for the loss of income and earning capacity.
This is a serious decision that some people make for the benefit of the family. They choose to put their career on hold to rear their children. This is also done because day care costs are nothing to laugh at.
While, in a majority of cases it is the men who end up paying spousal support and alimony, the law does not specify this. Legally, the person with the higher income might be required to compensate the spouse with the lower income financially until they can stand on their own feet.
Alimony can be of three types – permanent, temporary, and rehabilitative. Alimony is considered permanent if it has to be paid for the life of the spouse or until they remarry. Temporary alimony is awarded to support a spouse until the division of property, while rehabilitative alimony is meant to help the spouse get back to earning.