Divorce is never a pleasant experience, even under the most amicable of circumstances. In the antagonistic structure of divorce court, there is always a winner and a loser.
But some states are more unpleasant to get divorced in than others.
The following are the seven worst, ranked based on their filing fees, length of time to process a divorce, residency requirements, minimum separation period and waiting period after filing. (Information comes from the U.S. Census Bureau, state bar associations, state legislature sites and Bloomberg).
With a filing fee of $157 and 420 days to process the divorce, Nebraska easily ranks in the top of the worst states to get a divorce. A year’s residency is required, which is followed by a two-month cooling off period.
(MORE: Divorce Mistakes That Can Derail Retirement)
New York makes the list by combining a filing fee of $335 with a minimum processing time of 360 days. The state requires a marital “breakdown” of six months, but does not require physical separation. It also boasts the highest percentage of contested divorces.
Getting a divorce in California takes $395 (among the nation’s highest) and 360 days. The state is the only one requiring a six-month “cooling-off” period after filing.
(MORE: Taxes and Divorce: 6 Tips for Women)
Arkansas has a minimum processing time of 540 days, the longest in the country. The state also makes it rough to get a no-fault divorce. There is a mandatory 18-month period of separation here and any cohabitation during that period will reset the clock.
South Carolina requires a minimum of one-year separation before you can even file for divorce. Residency in the state is required, with a minimum of three months for couples when both live there. If only one party lives in South Carolina, the residency rule stretches to a year. The state also enjoys the status of being tied with Vermont for the third-longest processing time to get a divorce.
Rhode Island has a minimum processing time of 510 days, making it the second-longest waiting period for a divorce (the state’s filing fee: $120). Even after filing, there is a long “cool down” period of another five months. Fun fact: besides the usual permitted grounds for divorce found elsewhere in the country, Rhode Island permits divorce in case of “…gross misbehavior and wickedness.”
This is the worst state in the nation to get divorced. Cathryn Nunlist, professor at Vermont Law School, advises potential clients seeking a divorce to go next door to New Hampshire, which is the easiest state for a divorce. In Vermont, couples must live completely apart during the mandated six-month separation period. A year’s residency is required before the divorce will be granted and then there’s a three-month “decree nisi” period before the judge’s approval is absolute.
Methodology: The states were ranked based on five variables: Filing fees: 10 points; minimum separation period: 20 points; length of residency: 20 points; waiting period (after filing): 20 points and minimum number of days for entire procedure: 30 points. For each variable, the state with the lowest score received 0 points, while the highest state received the maximum number. The remaining states were awarded points based on a percentage and ranked on total points.
Bruce Provda is a New York City divorce lawyer and a family law expert.
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