Quick overview of common steps in a divorce
Do I need a lawyer to file for divorce?
Legally you are not required to hire a lawyer to file for divorce. Here are some questions to ask yourself when you make this decision:
- Am I comfortable with filling out paperwork and submitting the paperwork in person or electronically?
- Will I be willing to appear in court and argue my case?
- How much time do I have to prepare my legal case?
Regardless of your decision, it would might be a good idea just to talk to a attorney or lawyer with free consultation. Next I will explain to you the the most common steps in filing for divorce.
1) Petition For Divorce
The first step in the divorce process is petitioning the court for divorce. However, you first determine the type of divorce you need to file for your situation which willsave you time and money. Once your spouse has been served papers, they may take drastic action in an effort to protect their assets and/or appearance. Before you file for divorce, you should make copies of important documents, secure and protect evidence, take inventory of household items, and change your account passwords.
2) Serve The Divorce Papers
After the petition has been filed, the papers will then need to be served to your spouse. You cannot serve the papers yourself. The papers can be served by any legal adult who is not a part of the case. It could be a good friend or relative that delivers the papers, but it could also be a local police officer.
3) Request Temporary Orders (If Needed)
You can make requests for temporary orders during the divorce proceedings. Requests can be related to child support, spousal support, child custody, visitation, exclusive use of property, or attorney fees. If the request is granted, the orders will stand until they are superseded by another order or court judgement.
4) Financial Disclosure
Financial disclosure can be a tedious and time consuming process, but it is also one of the most important parts of a divorce. The court will not be able to properly divide assets and debt without first knowing what assets and debt exist. Your attorney will help you dive into your finances and ensure everything is accounted for. If you believe your spouse may be hiding assets from you, your attorney can help you conduct a deeper investigation.
5) Discovery Of Evidence
Discovery is a formal process for obtaining case information and evidence from your spouse. During the discovery phase, your attorney can request such as medical records, pay stubs, bank statements, tax returns, etc. Your attorney can also request responses to interrogatories or admissions. Information can be requested up to 60 days before the date of the trial.
If possible, it’s typically better to settle a divorce during the negotiation phase rather than taking the case to trial. Negotiations allows both parties to maintain control over important aspects of the divorce rather than handing control of the decisions off to a judge. A settlement will not be reached until you and your spouse agree on every issue surrounding the divorce. Issues include child custody, child support, spousal support, attorney fees, property division, debt allocation, visitation, and marital status. Even if you can’t agree on everything, the more you settle outside of trial, the less you have to settle in trial. If a full settlement can’t be reached, the case will have to go to trial.
During trial, both parties will have opportunities to present their cases. The judge will hear both sides and make a ruling on any divorce issues that weren’t resolved in the negotiation process.
There are many things that will need to be done post-judgement. Common to-dos include obtaining your own auto insurance, changing your name, closing or separating joint bank accounts, changing vehicle titles, updating your estate plan, etc.
Need help? Joel Lipinski is available for free consultations on simplified divorce and all other family law topics.