Steps for Filing for Divorce

Divorce is a difficult decision and should not be made without first considering the impact it will have on you and your family. Talking to a divorce lawyer may be the first step. Your divorce lawyer can also outline your state’s laws for divorce and how they will impact child custody issues, property division, child support, legal separation and spousal support.

 Steps in filing for divorce:

  • File the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage

To initiate the divorce process the petitioner of the divorce submits the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage to the appropriate court. States may have a residency requirement which must be met prior to filing for divorce. The Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage must state the reason you are requesting the divorce. 

  • The Respondent responds to the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage

After the petition has been filed a copy will be sent to the respondent. State laws allow the respondent a set number of days to respond to the petition. Failure to respond can be considered contempt.

The Petition generally outlines the basic facts of the case such as parties involved, the assets maintained by the couple and whether they have children. The Petition also may outlines relief for child support, spousal support, child custody and division of assets and debts. 

  • Answer and Counter Petition

The respondent must answer the Petition and either affirm or deny the petitioner’s allegations. If threspondent does not answer and a waiver or extension is not granted the petitioner may request a default which is the relief which was requested in the Petition. 

  • Schedule a Temporary Hearing

Under some conditions, a temporary hearing may be requested (while the divorce is pending) by filing a motion to resolve issues related to the divorce. Issues which may be decided at a hearing can include the use of marital assets, temporary custody of the children, temporary child support, and injunctions against misusing the financial assets.

Orders from the hearing are considered legally binding and failure to follow the orders can result in fines or jail time for the violator. 

  • Attempt mediation

Many states require the parties in the divorce to attempt to mediate their disputes prior to submitting the case to court. Mediation can be done with attorneys for both parties present.

The goal of mediation is to allow a mediator or neutral party to help the spouses resolve their differences. The mediator does not provide legal advice. 

  • Attend Parenting Classes

Many states have instituted policy changes which require parents to attend parenting classes prior to a divorce. Parenting classes can help parents understand how to navigate the divorce and lower the negative impact of the divorce on the children. 

  • Discovery

Discovery is the legal process used to gather information from each spouse for the divorce. It is considered the investigative phase, and it is used to resolve contested issues. There are generally five steps in the discovery process, but state laws may vary on how discovery is done.       

  1. Disclosure – Each party is required to provide certain documents to the other party.
  2. Interrogatories – Questions are sent to each attorney and each party has 30 days to answer the questions. Objections can be made to specific questions if either party believes they could lead to inadmissible evidence. The number of interrogatories which may be asked may be limited in certain states.
  3. Admission of Facts – Each party may request the other party to admit to relevant facts concerning the divorce proceeding.
  4. Releases of Information – Requests may be made from one party to the other to ask for third parties to release any documents which are relevant to the divorce proceeding.
  5. Depositions – Depositions allow the divorce attorneys to subpoena and question individuals who have information that is necessary to the divorce proceeding. All information gathered at a deposition can be used in court and statements are made under oath.

  • Divorce Court

Couples who are unable to resolve their disputes through mediation may have to argue their divorce case before a judge. Divorce judges will review the evidence and make their decision. If the parties disagree with the judge’s decision they may file a motion to appeal the order. Motions are often denied, and couples may have to file their appeal with the state appellate court.

If neither party disagrees with the judge’s decision they will sign the final decree for divorce. The final divorce degree will outline all of the divorce issues such as child support, child custody, spousal support, and distribution of assets.

Divorces can be expensive and complicated. If you are filing for divorce, especially if you have children or assets, you may want to contact a divorce lawyer. Divorce lawyers to file all the necessary divorce paperwork and answer all of your divorce questions.