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Frequently Asked Divorce Questions

If I leave the house can my spouse charge me with desertion?
If I leave my spouse because of abuse, can I be charged with desertion?
How long will the divorce take?
Can I date while separated?
Can my spouse's lawyer represent both of us?
What health insurance rights do spouses and dependent children have after divorce?


Please also see our Do-It-Yourself Marital Separation Agreements

If I leave the house can my spouse charge me with desertion?

If Your spouse's conduct does not warrant your leaving, he or she may be able to sue you for actual desertion. Therefore, absent physical abuse, it would be wise to consult your lawyer before leaving home. Your own conduct is very important if you wish to succeed in getting a divorce on fault grounds of adultery and actual or constructive desertion. You must not be guilty of any misconduct which would justify the desertion. You must not consent to the desertion. If you consent, it would constitute a voluntary separation. There is a difference, however, between consenting and giving in to something you cannot avoid.

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If I leave my spouse because of abuse, can I be charged with desertion?

Desertion is not a crime, so if you leave your spouse you cannot be criminally prosecuted for it. If your spouse sues you for divorce on the ground of desertion, you can respond by claiming and proving that it was actually his or her abusive behavior which forced you to leave. In fact, if you have left your home in immediate response to a pattern of abuse, you have your own ground for a limited divorce called "constructive desertion." "Constructive desertion" occurs when a party is forced to leave the home as a result of abuse.

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How long will the divorce take?

The length of time it takes to get a divorce varies from county to county, and is dependent upon the type of relief sought and type of hearing that is necessary. An uncontested divorce will take the least amount of time and will be expedited by the court system under the new differentiated case management system. At the end of a year of uninterrupted non-cohabitation and no sexual relations, either party is eligible to file for divorce. After the defendant is served, and he or she files an Answer or the time for an Answer expires, the Plaintiff may request a hearing in front of a master (in counties which operate with a master system) as soon as the Master's calendar permits.

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Can I date while we are separated?

Parties can charge one another with adultery at any time and the existence of a separation agreement does not protect a party from being so charged. Any behavior on your part which would indicate "inclination" or "opportunity" could be used against you to establish adultery.

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Can my spouse's lawyer represent both of us?

Generally, it is a conflict of interest for an attorney to represent and advise parties to a divorce.

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What health insurance rights do spouses and dependent children have after divorce?

A court has the authority to require either parent to name a child in the parent's health insurance coverage if the parent can obtain health insurance coverage through an employer or any form of group health insurance coverage, and the child can be included at a reasonable cost to the parent.

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