Divorce (or the dissolution of marriage) is the termination of a marital union, the canceling and/or reorganizing of the legal duties and responsibilities of marriage, thus dissolving the bonds of matrimony between a married couple under the rule of law of the particular country and/or state.
Divorce should not be confused with annulment, which declares the marriage null and void; with legal separation or de jure separation (a legal process by which a married couple may formalize a de facto separation while remaining legally married) or with de facto separation (a process where the spouses informally stop cohabiting). Reasons for divorce vary, from sexual incompatibility or lack of independence for one or both spouses to a personality clash.
You’ve decided you’re ready to get divorced, but what do you need to do next? You need to learn how the process works. You’ve come to the right place for an overview of the divorce process.
Legal Requirements to Divorce
You first need to consider where to file for divorce. Typically, this is the county and state where one or both of you live. First, determine if you meet the state’s residency requirements. If you or your spouse are in the military, you may file where currently stationed. However, there are rules to protect active duty service members from civil lawsuits. For more, read the articles on residency, eligibility for divorce, and military divorces here.
Completing and Filing Divorce Petitions
To complete the divorce petition, first consider whether you want a “no fault” or “fault” divorce. Fault divorces are for things such as abuse or adultery, read more in the articles below. If you don’t have any kids or many assets, you could get a “summary” divorce. With children, there’s child custody and child support papers to complete.
Serving Divorce Papers
Once you’ve filed your divorce papers at court, you have to “serve” them on your spouse. Generally, this means another adult must physically give the papers to your spouse. You can use professional servers or save money by having a friend serve the papers for you. If domestic violence is involved, the police in some counties will serve the papers, without charging the usual fee.
Answering a Divorce Petition
Maybe your spouse just served you with dissolution papers. You still have the opportunity to tell the court what you do and don’t want in the divorce. Take care to “answer” within the deadline set by state law.
Mediation and Settling a Divorce Case
Many divorces settle with an agreement both parties can live with. Even without a formal program, you and your spouse can use a “collaborative” divorce process from the beginning or can use an “alternative dispute resolution” specialist
Trial and Appeals
If your case goes to trial, you’ll need to present evidence, possibly including testimony from witnesses, so the judge can decide a property settlement for you. It will be easier if you’re represented by an attorney at trial. It’s also possible you want to appeal or modify a divorce judgment.
Common Steps Taken During the Divorce Process:
Are you considering divorce and wondering what the process will be like? Below is a broad outline describing the sequence of events for most divorce cases. Keep in mind that every divorce is different so, along with these steps you will have issues come up that pertain to your individual divorce.
Some states do not have laws that allow a couple to participate in a legal separation. In those states, you are married until a court decides otherwise. If your state laws allow couples to separate legally when one or the other spouse leaves the family residence your attorney will petition the courts for a separation agreement. This agreement protects the interests of both spouses and any children of the marriage by making sure that both parties meet their legal responsibilities to each other.
If your state doesn’t have laws that allow a legal separation your next step would be to contact your attorney or file a petition with the courts yourself requesting a hearing so that a temporary separation agreement can be ordered. This is done after filing a petition for divorce in states with no legal separation laws on the books.
If mediation didn’t work and there are unresolved issues a trial date will be set. During the trial, both parties have the chance to argue their case before a judge. It’s imperative that you discuss, with your attorney, proper courtroom behavior so you can make a good impression on the judge. The judge will then examine all the evidence and make a decision based on what he feels would be a proper divorce settlement and outcome.
After Divorce Court:
Once a judge has made a decision the parties to the divorce will sign the final decree of divorce. The final decree states how any marital property will be divided, any orders pertaining to custody of the children, child support amounts and any maintenance that is ordered and any other issues pertinent to the dissolution of the marriage.
Appealing a Divorce Court Order:
If you feel that the courts orders are unfair you may then file a motion to appeal the order and request a new hearing. This motion is filed with the same judge that put in place the orders and not many judges are going to set aside their own orders. You should not be surprised when the courts deny your motion. When the court denies your motion, you file an appeal with the state appellate court.
Marriages of short duration where there are no children or marital assets to split will see their way through the process rather quickly. If you have children and have accumulated assets during your marriage you should not be surprised when the divorce seems to turn into a long, drawn out and at times, frustrating process. Be patient because the Family Court system is hard at work trying to protect the interest of all parties involved in a divorce action.