What to Expect When You File for Divorce

Wood desk with a petition to file for divorce laying on top next to a pen, gavel, and name plate that says judge

What to Expect When You File for Divorce

Primarily due to a lack of information, individuals who have the desire to initiate the legal process of divorce may feel overwhelmed and stressed about what to expect when you file for divorce.

In order to eliminate any fears that may arise on the road to becoming a divorcee, take the time to review the following overview regarding the process of dissolving your marriage from beginning to end. Please remember that each case is unique and what follows is a simply a “road map” of how the case is likely to proceed.

1. Petition

The very first step of the divorce process is the initial filing completed by the party looking to end the marriage. This is referred to as a petition for dissolution of marriage and the person who files the divorce action is known as the “petitioner”.

2. Service of process

After the petition has been filed, the receiving party has to be served with  the summons, petition and accompanying documents that you have already filed with the Court. A Petitioner typically serves the court documents on Respondent, through Sheriff’s service, a private process server, or by Respondent picking up the documents from your attorney and waiving formal service.

3. Response

Once it has been verified that the petition has been received by your spouse in the proper manner, they have a designated amount of time to respond and take any actions they may need to take to move forward. The Respondent then has 20 calendar days in which to file a response to the petition.

4. Temporary orders

Unfortunately, some divorces can last for protracted amounts of time, and for those cases, temporary divorce orders can allow for immediate actions to take place for seemingly instant results to be seen. Such orders can include an outlining of details for childcare, spousal support, and more. Temporary orders are the most useful for factors that need to be handled with high priority before the divorce even enters a courtroom. At the same time, it is not necessary for a spouse to respond.

If the set amount of time assigned passes without your spouse responding, it is assumed by the court that they agree to the terms of the petition and they do not detest them. This is an ideal situation for the party who has filed the petition because it essentially means everything they initially asked for in the divorce will be granted to them.

5. Discovery

At this point of the process, discovery calls for both spouses to work together in a sense in that they both need to exchange required information in order to move forward with the divorce. The procedure for discovery goes as follows: mandatory disclosures , interrogatories (questions asked by the opposing lawyer), admission of facts (list of facts sent from the opposing side that need to be confirmed as true or false), requests for production (request for documentation pertaining to personal information), depositions (sworn testimonies conducted by the lawyer of the opposing side).

The importance and purpose of this step is for the lawyers of both spouses to gather as much information as they need in order to make informed decision as to the equitable distribution of the marital estate, alimony and child support . The opposing party will be doing the same. For this reason, it is important to be as truthful as possible and offer as much information as you can because you will want to avoid dealing with the repercussions of delay and possible contempt.

6. Negotiation

If both parties are capable of communicating with each other in a productive manner, they can draw up the terms of their divorce together. With their lawyers present, this is the best option for both parties that allows for a greater chance of a swift divorce and flexible compromises outside of court. Once submitted to the court, the judge will make the decision as to whether or not the Marital Settlement Agreement, Parenting Plan will be turned into an order. Being that the divorcing couple has already stipulated to the the terms, it is more likely that the judge will approve of them. If this is not an applicable solution, the case will be settled in court.

7. Trial

If any issues were not settle during the negotiation process, the attorneys must request a date for the court to conduct an a trial on the unresolved issues.