It's A Process: Divorce And The Road Ahead
If you are going through a divorce, it can be an emotionally draining and confusing time. It may help you a little if you understand the process and can get an idea of what's ahead. Most divorces follow a very similar route, even if some seem to get detoured occasionally. Read on for a quick guide to get you through the coming weeks and months.
Your separation: This is the first step in the process, and it may surprise you to know that parting ways and creating separate households is actually a legal step. In fact, you may be interested in marking the occasion with a legal separation agreement that provides both you and your children with some vital financial protections and provisions. You don't have to have a final divorce decree to have the judge issue orders on child custody, child support, spousal support, visitation and more. Your legal separation agreement can help set the stage for a quicker and easier divorce settlement agreement since it addresses so many potential contentious and difficult issues.
Serving papers: Whether you do the serving or you are the one who gets served depends on who initiated the divorce proceeding, but the serving of the divorce petition (also known as the original petition or letter of complaint) is often the first major legal step in the divorce process. If you live in a state that still requires the divorce to have a specific reason (unlike a no-fault state), this document will detail the grounds for divorce.
Orders: Temporary orders meant to secure the financial situation of a spouse or minor child will usually follow the petition unless the orders accompany it. These orders will expire at the final decree, but the provision can be used in the final decree as well.
Discovery: If you are dealing with a contested divorce and are proceeding toward a trial, you will first have to go through a required legal step known as discovery. This process allows the attorneys for both sides to request and trade information about the divorce, such as documents, information, and even recorded testimony.
Mediation: If the negotiations are stalling and the parties are having problems agreeing on certain issues, the judge may order mediation. Even if it's not required, this is an excellent method of dealing with contentious divorce issues and can be a lot less expensive and time-consuming than hashing it out in court.
Court: If the parties have come to an agreement and all issues are resolved, the final decree can be handed down. In most cases, only the initiating party need appear, and in some cases of simple divorces, no appearance is needed at all.
Final Decree: The divorce settlement agreement with all orders attached will arrive by mail, legally severing your ties to your spouse.
Contact local divorce attorneys for more information and assistance.