Steps to a Divorce
The steps involved in a divorce will depend upon the circumstances of each individual person that is drawn into the divorce. If the parties have been married for a short period of time, without any children, and very little property or debts involved will be less involved than a divorce where the parties in the divorce have been married for a long period of time involving children and significant property or debts that need to be divided. If both parties want a divorce, it will be simpler than if one party is blind sided with the divorce papers. If both parties agree on how to divide between themselves it will be allot quicker and smoother in their divorce. If the parties are disagreeing among themselves the divorce process will become allot longer and become costlier in the end.
Filing a Petition
The first step involved in the divorce process is filing a petition. When both parties agree on a divorce, one of them will have to file a petition with the court asking for the divorce. The petition will state the grounds for the divorce and they vary depending upon the jurisdiction. All jurisdictions allow for some type of no-fault grounds such as the old “irreconcilable differences,” but there are a few states that do fault grounds for a divorce, such as adultery or abandonment. Your lawyer will be able to tell you whether fault grounds are available in your state, and if so, whether or not it makes sense to file for divorce on fault grounds.
If there is one spouse who depends on the other spouse for financial support or has custody of children that spouse needs to ask the court for temporary orders for support and custody while the divorce proceeds. As an example, if there is a stay-at- home mom files for a divorce, she will need to file for financial support from her husband to pay for the household bills and temporary custody order and a temporary child support order for the children. A temporary order is usually granted within a few days and will remain in effect until a full court hearing presided over by a judge. If the party seeking the temporary order is the same party who files the petition, they should file them at the same time but if the party seeking the temporary order did not file the petition, they should file their request for the temporary order as soon as possible with the court.
The Service of Process
The party who files for divorce also needs to file proof of service of process, which is a document that shows that a copy of the divorce petition was given to the other party in the proceedings. If the parties mutually agree on the divorce, it is best for the party who files the complaint to arrange for service of process to the other party’s attorney. The service of process can be either very dignified or very undignified or anywhere in between such as having a process server visit one’s spouse at his or her place of employment, which is very undignified.
The party who receives the service of process will then need to file a response to the petition. If the divorce was sought on fault grounds and the responding party wants to dispute those grounds, he or she needs to address it in the response. The responding party may choose to dispute the facts that are alleged to be the grounds for divorce or he or she may choose to assert a defense to the grounds. If there is disagreement as to property division, support, custody, or any other issue, this should be set out in the response to the court.
If the parties don’t agree on all the issues, they will need to try to negotiate their differences. The court may schedule settlement conferences that attempt to move the parties toward a final resolution of the issues including child custody and visitation, property division and any spousal support.
Any issues that the parties absolutely cannot resolve between themselves will have to be decided at a trial. Going to trial will take longer, cost more money, and have a less than certain outcome, so it is better to try and to avoid going to trial if possible.
Order of Disolution
The order of dissolution ends the marriage and spells out how the property and debts are to be divided, custody, support and any other issues. When the parties negotiate their own resolution to all of the issues, they will draft the order of dissolution and submit it to the court. If the order of dissolution complies with legal requirements and both parties entered into it knowingly and willingly, then the judge will approve it. Otherwise the court will issue an Order of Dissolution at the end of the trial.