A Complete Explanation of the Divorce Process

For quite some time now, America’s overall divorce rate has been rising. Research indicates the number of younger married couples going their separate ways is slowly dropping. On the other hand, the number of couples over the age of 50 who are getting divorced has more than doubled in recent years.

Some divorces come from years of fighting, anger, and resentment. Others are the result of years of mistreatment or steadily growing further apart. A few stem from quick, calm, mutual decisions that such a move may simply be best for everyone involved. Either way, they can certainly be painful and confusing, surrounded by a great deal of uncertainty.

Taking an In-Depth Look at the Divorce Process

Regardless of the reasons for divorce or the terms on which couples come to this decision, certain measures have to take place for the matter to be resolved. While no two divorces are quite the same, all of them follow a basic process. If you’re currently thinking about divorce or facing the dissolution of a marriage, consider scheduling a divorce consultation to help make the situation a bit simpler. In the meantime, take a look at the general steps of the divorce process.

Filing a Petition for Divorce

Filing a petition for divorce with the court is the first official step in the legal process. This is required whether it’s a mutual or one-sided decision. Divorce petitions cover several details, including the names and addresses of the spouses filing for divorce, when and where they were married, the names of any children the couple has, and the reasons, or grounds, for the dissolution.

Petitions for divorce also show how long the couple has lived in the state in which they’re filing for divorce. They provide information about how the person filing the petition wants to handle various aspects of the divorce as well. These might include child custody, visitation, child and spousal support, and the division of assets and debts.

Keep in mind, the details of how the divorce will proceed aren’t necessarily set in stone after being laid out in the petition. During the measures to follow, spouses will have a chance to consider and modify those points. Ideally, they’ll come to a mutual resolution that’s satisfactory for both.

Temporary Court Orders

In the majority of divorce cases, child custody and financial support are the main points of contention. They’re also the first matters to be addressed by the court. That’s where temporary court orders come into play. While the person who filed the divorce petition with the court will cover those points in his or her paperwork, the opposing party can also file a counterpetition. From there, hearings on emergency matters or temporary court orders tend to be occur fairly quickly.

Judges consider numerous factors when determining which parent will be granted custody of the children. These include which parent has been providing for most of the children’s physical and emotional needs up to the point of the divorce. Which parent the children are most emotionally attached to comes into question as well.

Judges may also look at which parent can provide the most suitable living arrangements. They also consider the types of adjustments the children would have to make with each parent, such as whether they’d need to change schools. Those are only a few of the relevant factors, though. From there, the amount of financial support the non-custodial parent will be required to pay is decided.

Again, those decisions aren’t necessarily permanent. There will still be time and opportunity to make changes. If either party involved in the divorce is unhappy with the arrangements of the temporary court orders or has grounds for making adjustments, he or she will be heard at a later date.

Serving Divorce Papers

Once you’ve filed a petition for divorce and described how you’d like various points of contention resolved, it’s time to serve the divorce papers to your spouse. Receiving the papers can be emotionally trying or even downright dangerous in some cases.

It’s generally best to have the papers served via a traditional and official route. That means enlisting a neutral third party to handle the task. Your attorney can take care of the situation. Many people have someone from the local sheriff’s department do it. Divorce paper recipients tend to be less unruly when law enforcement serves them. Professional process servers are likewise available.

When your spouse receives the papers, the server must provide a signed affidavit saying he or she delivered the papers and confirming they went to the right person. Then, you’ll need to file the affidavit with the court. Otherwise, the process isn’t legally complete or valid.

If by chance, your spouse can’t be found, other options are available. Court systems often require divorce petitioners to go through numerous channels in an attempt to serve the papers properly. In some instances, judges allow people to serve the divorce papers to their spouses by publication in newspapers if that’s the only option left.

Proof of all the methods used to try to serve the divorce papers is required. Affidavits must also be filed with the court to document those attempts to serve. If all options have been exhausted and the spouse in question still can’t be found, all hope isn’t lost. Provisions are in place to cover such situations, but they’re only used when all other solutions have failed.

Contesting and Negotiation

If the opposing spouse doesn’t agree with the conditions of the original divorce petition and court orders, he or she can contest them. This leads to negotiations and, hopefully, satisfactory compromises. In a situation like this, you and your spouse can certainly choose to try to work out the details between yourselves. Because emotions run so high during divorces, though, that doesn’t always work.

Divorcing spouses are often advised to communicate about those issues via their attorneys until agreements are reached. Mediation is also an option. Professional mediators are available to help divorcing couples resolve their points of contention without making multiple trips to court or having disagreements spiral out of control.

Dissolution Order

Finally, divorcing couples reach the point where their dissolution orders are put into effect. Dissolution orders are final divorce agreements. They cover all the relevant matters that needed to be settled between the former spouses. Child custody, visitation, financial support, division of property, resolution of debts, and other issues will all be detailed in the dissolution order. Getting to this point can take a few months or several depending on all the factors involved.

Getting Your Divorce Settled

No two divorces are the same, and the specific laws regarding divorce vary by state. These are the basic steps that need to be covered during the process, though. Statutes of limitations may apply to some of those measures as well, so timing is crucial.

Once you decide divorce is the best course of action, consider contacting an attorney. Having legal representatives involved in the process is recommended. It’ll greatly improve your chances of finding satisfactory resolutions to all the aspects that need to be ironed out during your divorce proceedings.