If you're on the verge of a divorce in Delaware, this page contains the information and resources you'll need for making smart choices in your situation. It can also help if you are unsure about taking the next step and only want a trial separation to see if things will work out.
We've provided an overview of the divorce laws to help you understand what to expect in a divorce or separation. If you need legal help, you can locate qualified divorce attorneys willing to represent you. There are also options to access the various divorce papers and online divorce preparation services when you can't afford a lawyer.
If you have children, you'll be able to use the support calculator to get a general idea of the amount of child support which could be awarded. There are also options for finding local divorce support meetings to help you cope with everything or locate the various domestic abuse services within the state.
Based on Delaware Complete Domestic Relations Laws - Title 13
RESIDENCY FILING REQUIREMENTS: To initiate a divorce in the state of Delaware, you must first meet the residency requirements. To meet this requirement, you need to have lived in the state, or have been stationed on a military base within the state, for 6 months prior to filing a divorce petition.
FILING FOR DIVORCE IN DELAWARE: Divorce cases are handled by the family court and the petition may be filed in either the county where you live or the county where your spouse lives. A divorce may proceed as uncontested if the respondent does not file an answer within 20 days or if the respondent files an answer agreeing the terms of the initial divorce petition. If the respondent files his or her answer challenging information or conditions in the petition, the divorce will proceed as contested and a hearing will be scheduled.
LEGAL SEPARATION: You and your spouse must be legally separated for 6 months before filing for a divorce. To qualify as a legal separation, you must not be having sexual relations or sharing a bed with each other, unless you are trying to reconcile the marriage. Spouses may, however, reside in the same residence while separated, as long they occupy separate bedrooms and do not have a sexual relationship with each other.
After a divorce petition has been initiated, either party may request interim orders for residence of the home, temporary alimony, child custody and/or visitation, and child support,
GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE: The sole ground for a divorce in Delaware is irretrievable breakdown of the marriage relationship based on the following conditions:
When filing for a divorce based on separation due to misconduct, there is no specific amount of time that you need to be separated. But you must substantiate the misconduct by providing proof of the transgressions before your divorce will be granted on this ground.
Genuine efforts to reconcile preceding divorce, even briefly resuming marital relations and sleeping together in the same bed, shall not suspend the required time-frame for living separate and apart, if the parties haven't had sexual interactions or slept in the same bedroom for 30 days prior to the Court hearing the divorce petition.
ANNULMENT: A marriage annulment may be granted in Delaware based on the conditions listed below as long as the time requirements are met:
If the spouses have children together which are under the age of 17, they will be required to participate in a "Parenting Education Course". Parents are responsible for paying for the course and do not have to attend the same course. Attendance is not required if the court determines, upon motion, that it is not necessary for the parents to participate in the course.
DIVISION OF PROPERTY: Property owned before the marriage is considered separated property. Inheritances and gifts (except gifts between spouses) received during the marriage are also considered separated property.
In Delaware, all property acquired throughout the marriage is considered martial property, regardless of how the property is titled. If the parties are unable to agree on how everything will be split, the court will distribute the marital estate equitably and without considering marital misconduct, based on:
ALIMONY: The court encourages parties to become self-sufficient. Alimony may be granted if a spouse is dependent on the other spouse for support, lacks enough property or assets to provide for him or herself after the divorce, isn't able to be self-supporting by suitable employment, or is the custodian of a child whose condition makes outside employment difficult. The duration of alimony may not exceed 50% of the length of the marriage, except for marriages which have lasted 20 years or more. Factors to be considered in the awarding of alimony include:
In Delaware, alimony ceases upon either spouse's death or the remarriage or cohabitation of the party receiving alimony, unless agreed to otherwise in writing.
NAME CHANGE: The court may include a provision in the decree, upon request or motion, for a spouse to resume the use of a maiden or prior name.
CHILD CUSTODY: In Delaware, custody of the children may be awarded to either the father or the mother, with no preference given due to the gender of the parent. If parents can come to a mutual understanding that working together to prepare a parenting plan that includes a custody agreement that adheres to Delaware's standards of putting children first, it can make the entire process much smoother.
If the parents are unable to mutually agree regarding custody and parenting matters, the court will determine legal and physical custody taking the following factors into consideration:
Visitation shall be awarded to the non-custodial parent, unless it is determined by the Court that such visitation would endanger the child. Any order by the Court denying or restricting a parent's access to a child shall specifically state the facts and conclusions in support of such a denial or restriction.
When visitation is awarded, most circumstances require the formation of an acceptable child visitation schedule. Parents can work together to create a visitation schedule, but the Court always has the final say.
CHILD SUPPORT: Both parents have a duty to support a child until he or she reaches the age of 18. If the child is attending school when he or she turns 18, the duty to support the child shall be extended until the child's high school graduation or upon turning 19, whichever occurs first.
In Delaware, child support is determined by using the Melson formula, which takes into consideration the income of each parent and the needs of the child. Either parent may file for a modification of the amount of child support due to a substantial change in circumstances.
If the parents cannot provide for the child's minimum needs, a stepparent or a person cohabitating with the custodial parent shall be under a duty to provide for those needs. This duty only exists while the child lives with such stepparent or person, and the marriage or cohabitation continues.
This is an easy to use online divorce service for preparing uncontested divorce papers which are up-to-date and accurate for the state of Delaware. They offer "Real Person" customer support by e-mail and phone, plus you'll be able to access to a number downloadable books about the different aspects of divorce (which are valued at over $750). Start your Delaware divorce today.