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What Should I Expect During My Divorce Process?

Are you considering a divorce and wondering what the process will be like?

Divorce can be a very emotional and a frustrating process.   Every state has different divorce laws that will establish what you go through once you have made the final decision.  There are several steps and procedures that need to be done in order to get the divorce process started.  Always remember that every divorce is unique in its own way, so there may be difficult times, frustrating moments and challenges with your spouse.

Some states do not have laws that allow a couple to take part in a legal separation.  In those states, you must stay married until the court decides otherwise.  If your state law allows couples to separate legally when one or the other spouse leaves the family residence, your lawyer will petition the courts for a legal separation.  If you are among the millions of people who have chosen to do their own divorce, then ordering a do it yourself divorce kit that contains a marital settlement agreement will accomplish this task as well.  This contract protects the interests of each individual including children of the marriage by making sure that both spouses meet their legal responsibilities to one another.  If your state does not have laws that allow a legal separation your next step would be to contact your lawyer or file a petition at the courts yourself asking for a hearing so that a temporary separation can be ordered.  This will happen after filing a petition for divorce in states with a no legal separation law.

A document called “Original Petition for Divorce” will start the divorce process and is filed with your local court.  In some states, this is referred to as a “Letter of Complaint.” Both documents are requests for the court to grant a divorce and list any information the filing spouse feels is necessary.  The original petition will recognize the parties to the divorce and any children they may have.  The party filing for divorce will have to state a reason as part of the petition or letter.  In most states, this will be “irreconcilable differences” or “incompatibility.” The person filing for the divorce will be named the “petitioner” by the courts while the other party to the divorce is referred to as the “respondent” or, in some states, the “defendant.”

The original petition or letter of complaint is then served to the respondent.  Normally a member of the local sheriff’s office serves the petition.  Those of you who choose to use a do it yourself  divorce process, you will be able to serve your spouse on your own.  Once the respondent has been served he / she has thirty days to hire a lawyer and respond to the original petition for divorce.   An uncontested divorce where both parties get along there is no need to hire an attorney if you can reach an agreement yourselves.   It is at this time that either party may ask for protective orders, restraining orders or temporary orders pertaining to child support and temporary allowance.

After the petition is served on the respondent, mediation is highly recommended to try and come to an agreement outside of court.  By using the Do It Yourself method you will both need to agree and settle your own disputes if any.  If you are lucky, this is as far as you will get in the process.  During mediation, both parties to the divorce and their attorney’s meet to discuss any disputes they may have and try to come to an agreement that meets the needs of one another.  The “mediator” is a court appointed attorney, and he is there to negotiate a settlement between the parties.

If you are unable to come to an agreement during mediation, a trial date will be set.  During the trial, both parties have the chance to claim their case before a judge.  The judge will then examine all the evidence and make a decision based on what he feels would be a proper settlement and conclusion.

After the judge has made a decision, both parties to the divorce will sign the final decree of divorce.  The final decree states who gets what, any orders pertaining to custody of the children, child support amounts, any ordered spousal maintenance and any other issues pertinent to the dissolution of the marriage.

If you do not agree with the court orders, you may then file a motion to appeal the order and request a new hearing. This motion is filed with the original judge.  Please note that not many judges are going to set aside their own orders. You should not be surprised when the courts deny your motion.  When the court denies your motion, you are able to file an appeal with the state appellate court.

Marriages of short length or where no children are involved will see their way through the process much faster.  If you do have children and have accumulated assets during your marriage you should not be surprised when the divorce seems to turn into a long, drawn out and at times, frustrating process.  Try to stay patient because the Family Court System is hard at work trying to protect the interest of all parties involved in a divorce action.

As you can see the divorce process can be daunting.  Please take a moment to visit where you are able to save both time and money by doing your divorce with easy to read divorce forms and a simple divorce kit.

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