Going through a divorce is mentally, emotionally, financially, and physically exhausting.
The divorce process is never simple or easy, but it doesn’t need to be overly complicated either.
By learning how the process works you can better understand how it applies to your personal case.
Each divorce is unique because each person and relationship is different, so there is never one right or wrong answer.
After understanding the divorce process, you should always meet with a qualified attorney to go over your case and help file paperwork.
Types of Divorce
Forget everything you’ve learned from movies and T.V. shows.
Not every divorce involves a heated battle in a courtroom.
If you and your spouse communicate well or are at least willing to compromise, this can make the entire process a lot easier.
Hopefully, you’ll reach a favorable agreement.
This type of divorce involves compromise and takes place outside the courtroom in a more private setting. You and your spouse will each file separate paperwork – usually under the guidance of your own attorneys.
If your marriage was relatively short-lived and you haven’t accumulated much in the way of assets or debts, you may qualify for a summary divorce.
Arbitration is an option if you and your spouse don’t quite agree on everything. A neutral third party known as an arbitrator looks over the specifics of your case and makes a decision.
The divorce mediation process is very similar to arbitration. A mediator meets with you and your spouse to facilitate conversation and hopefully reach an agreement. The mediator doesn’t make any final decision.
During a collaborative divorce, your attorneys play a more hands-on role to reach an agreement outside the courtroom.
If the methods above don’t work out you could find yourself in a contested divorce. It doesn’t mean you and your spouse disagree on everything – you may only disagree on one small part. In contested divorce, a judge looks over all the facts and makes the final ruling.
Breaking down the process of divorce
The process of divorce depends on your individual situation. Many aspects of your relationship determine the best route for obtaining your divorce and how your case plays out in the long-run.
During a marriage, you share property with your partner. When a divorce takes place, you’ll need to divide that property. You’ll also need to decide legal terms for the future including child custody, child support, or spousal support.
Although divorce is never fast, certain factors can simplify the process:
- You’ve only been married for a short period of time.
- You both want the divorce.
- You communicate fairly well with your spouse.
- You do not have children with your current spouse.
- You did not accumulate significant assets during the marriage.
Other factors can significantly complicate the process of divorce:
- You have children together.
- You have pets.
- One spouse was not expecting the divorce.
- You own a business together.
- You both disagree on nearly everything.
- One spouse is dependent on the other for financial support.
After you’ve thought about your situation, here’s how to start the divorce process and what to expect:
- File a petition for divorce
Even if you both agree it’s time to split, one of you needs to file a petition for divorce with the courts. It is important to understand the divorce process by state. No-fault divorce is very common and overwhelmingly accepted in most cases. However, some states still require fault grounds like adultery or abuse.
- Temporary orders
If one spouse requires financial support for themselves or children, they may seek a temporary order at the time of filing the divorce. These orders go into effect within days and remain valid until both parties reach a final divorce agreement.
- Service of process
If one party isn’t expecting the divorce, service of process can get messy. If both parties agree, the party who filed the paperwork needs to get the other party to sign the divorce petition. In other cases, a process server may need to visit the other party’s home or workplace to serve the papers.
The party who did not file the initial divorce paperwork is known as the respondent. After receiving service of process, they must file their own response. They may either agree or dispute the divorce based on specific grounds at this point.
Hopefully at this point you’ll find yourself in an uncontested divorce. If not, that’s okay. Negotiations don’t have to be messy. You have many options at your disposal including mediation, arbitration, and collaborative divorce. If this doesn’t work out, you’ll need to go to trial
- Final steps
Once you and your spouse (or the courts) reach an agreement, you’ll file an order of dissolution. This determines the division of property and finalizes the divorce.
In order to qualify for an annulment, your marriage needs to meet certain criteria that renders the agreement legally invalid. You may qualify for an annulment if you’ve been married less than three months and were somehow coerced into the marriage.
Legal separation is a common alternative to divorce. You’ll still need to work out the details regarding property divisions and custody, but you remain legally married.
Meet with a qualified attorney
It is important to meet with a qualified attorney to go over your case. Many people going through the process of divorce avoid seeking legal representation because they don’t want to appear aggressive or offensive.
However, talking to an attorney can help you understand your case and file legal paperwork. They can also help you understand all the legal details.