You never go into a marriage planning to get divorced, but unfortunately, the reality is that it does happen.
Going through a divorce can be emotionally, mentally, and even physically challenging. There are also financial considerations in a divorce. For example, you may have to drastically change your lifestyle.
Every state has its own laws regarding the process of a divorce, but the following are some of the general steps that usually happen in the divorce process.
The Divorce Petition
A divorce typically starts with what’s called a petition. A divorce petition is written by one spouse who is referred to as the petitioner.
If both spouses agree to a divorce, then the one who isn’t the petitioner just has to sign to acknowledge they receive the paperwork. If the other spouse refuses to sign, then it can be more complex.
Some states do have laws that let you do a legal separation, and you may be required to before you can start the steps in a divorce. During a legal separation, you’re still married, but you live apart, and it’s dictated by the terms of a court order.
If your state lets you legally separate, then your attorney will petition the court for a separation agreement.
When you file a divorce petition, you have to specify a legal reason for divorce and provide any other information required by your state.
A court can usually issue temporary orders in a divorce, which will tell you the specific things you have to do right away. The temporary orders will last until your final divorce hearing is over.
Some of the things covered in temporary orders include child custody, spousal support, and child support.
You have to follow temporary orders, and not doing so means you could be found in contempt of court.
Before temporary orders are granted, you’ll have to go to a hearing in front of a judge.
Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce
One thing that can play a role in the specifics of your divorce process is whether it’s contested or uncontested.
If you can agree on all the major things before a trial, the divorce is uncontested. This means you can agree on a wide variety of things like spousal support, asset division, custody, and visitation.
If there are matters you can’t agree on, it’s contested.
There may be instances where a couple doesn’t agree on the basic idea of getting divorced.
If one party doesn’t want to stay in the marriage, a judge won’t force them to, and most states do have some type of no-fault divorce. Even so, if one party doesn’t want the divorce and the other does, they can drag it out and make it much more difficult.
An uncontested divorce can go through quickly, relatively speaking. It can be a cheaper option in terms of legal fees and other associated costs.
An uncontested divorce usually isn’t appealable either, which is another point of distinction. The idea behind an uncontested divorce is that you’re both agreeing to a certain arrangement.
That doesn’t mean you have to follow it forever, but it does mean you can only change it if there’s a significant change in circumstances or a certain amount of time has passed. Then, you may be able to file to modify it.
The Response to a Petition
The spouse who isn’t the petitioner is known as the respondent. The respondent can file a response indicating agreement or disagreement. If a response isn’t filed within 30 days, the petition may request that a default is entered.
Once you go through the discovery process in a divorce, which is when both sides try to find out as much information as they can, you might go to mediation. A lot of states require that you go to mediation before you make it to court to try and hammer out an agreement there.
During mediation, you and your spouse will meet with your attorneys. There will be a mediator who is court-appointed and will work to negotiate a settlement.
If you can’t reach a settlement, then you’ll go to divorce court. The judge will go over the evidence and decide on a settlement and outcome.
Finally, if you feel that your divorce orders aren’t fair, you can file a motion to appeal and request a new hearing.
It’s not uncommon for this to be denied, and then that means you would file your appeal with your state’s appellate court.
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