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Divorce Lawyer describing the Divorce ProcessUnderstanding The
Divorce Process

Are you contemplating divorce and wondering what the divorce process will be?

In this session, we walk you through a step-by-step overview of the divorce process.

Once you’ve learned the Divorce Process, you’ll know what to expect each step of the way.

Before we began, there are some definitions we need to bring you up-to-date on.

 


 

 

Adjudicate = to settle or determine (an issue or dispute) judicially
Answer
= the formal response for a divorce petition. The answer or response contains the denial or admission of the allegations made by the petitioner.
Party =  a plaintiff or a defendant in a legal proceeding
Petitioner = the person who initiates the divorce by filing the petition; also known as the Plaintiff
Divorce Petition = this is the title given to the first document filed in the pursuit of a divorce
Divorce Papers = another name for divorce petition
Respondent = also known as the Defendant; this is the person who responds to the petition for divorce
Service of process = the act of presenting the summons or complaint to the defendant or respondent



 

The Divorce Process
Step #1 - Establish Jurisdiction

Prior to filing a divorce, you must first determine where the matter will be heard. Different states have different rules for granting jurisdiction. In some states, prior to filing, the filing party must have lived in that state for 6 months, others, 1 year. Since state laws vary, be sure to confirm what your state’s requirements are. If there are two or more possible jurisdictions, it may benefit the party filing the divorce petition, to serve the documents first; this gives them the ability to choose jurisdiction in their state.

 

The Divorce Process

Step #2 - Filing The Petition
Once jurisdiction is established, filing the divorce petition is the next step. The petition is written by one spouse (the petitioner) and served on the other spouse (the respondent). This document contains important information regarding the marital union. It names the husband and wife, and the legal grounds for divorce. It names any children and states if there is any community or separate property. It also includes child custody issues and claims for spousal and child support. Once the divorce petition is complete, it is then filed with the proper court and then served on the respondent.

The Divorce Process
Step #3 - The Service of Process
After a divorce petition has been filed with the court, the divorce process is commenced by serving the other party (the respondent) with divorce papers. Each state has strict requirements for serving divorce petitions. It is critically important that service be done right in order for the divorce to legally proceed. In all most all states, a party in the divorce may not serve their own divorce papers.

The Divorce Process

Step #4- The Answer

Depending on the state, the respondent (also known as the opposing party) has anywhere from (20) to (30) days to submit an answer to the petition. Late answers are oftentimes accepted, since courts prefer to determine cases based on their merits rather than by default; but don’t count on this. If you are served with a divorce petition, respond in a timely manner! The Answer, simply put, is the opposing parties statement of facts and request for relief.

 

The Divorce Process

Step #5 – Mediation
Many courts require the parties to attempt to mediate any issues or disputes before the matter is brought before the court. Mediation may occur with a neutral court appointed mediator or with the attorneys of both parties. If abuse or domestic violence is alleged, an exception to thus rule is usually made.

 

The Divorce Process

Step #6 – Pendente Lite Hearings

“Pendente Lite” is a Latin term meaning "while the law case is pending." Also know as temporary hearings, is designed to resolve issues such as, (temporary child support and/or alimony, temporary custody of children, use of assets, who pays what bills, where the parties are going to reside pending the resolution of the divorce case, etc.) while the divorce is pending.

The Divorce Process
Step #7 – The Settlement

At any point during the divorce process, right up to the point of the trial, a case may be settled if the parties come to an agreement on the issues. If thus happens, the parties would sign some form of a marital settlement agreement and the process will be over.

 

The Divorce Process
Step #8 – The Settlement Conference/Pretrial

The settlement or pretrial conferences are ordered by the court in an attempt to resolve outstanding issues without going to trial. If no pretrial settlement is reached, the issues being contested are set for trial.

  

The Divorce Process
Step #9 – The Divorce Court Trial

If you’ve reached this point it means you and your spouse were unable to settle your divorce case amicably. Some states have a trial by jury. Other states have a trial by Judge. At trial, the petitioner or the divorce lawyer for the petitioner presents their case first. Once the petitioner rests their case, the respondent or the attorney for the respondent presents their case. Each side tells their story, calls witnesses, presents evidence and cross examines witnesses and experts. After all evidence is presented and both sides have presented their cases, the jury or Judge decides on the case.

 

The Divorce Process
Step #10 – Appeals

Once a divorce case has been adjudicated, either party has a right to an appeal if they disagree with the Judge’s ruling. As with any judicial case, there are timelines to file an appeal. It is best to consult with a divorce lawyer in your state regarding the appeal and timelines.

 

The Divorce Process
Step #10 – Modification

Oftentimes after a divorce case has been settled, there may arise material changes in the circumstances in one or both parties. If a party can show that these changes warrant a change in the finalized divorce decree, a judge can modify that decree. Issues subject to modification are as follows but not limited to: child custody, child support, child visitation and alimony.

 

The Divorce Process
Step #10 – Enforcement

If a party in a divorce case disobeys an order established in a divorce decree, the other party may file a motion to compel compliance. An example would be one party not complying with child visitation orders.

 

This is a brief general view of the divorce process provided by the Divorce Court Attorneys. It was designed to speak in layman’s terms to give the readers an idea of what to expect. Always consult with a divorce lawyer for specific laws for your state.

 
 

 

Divorce Court Attorneys provides free articles, sound bytes, opinions and information related to divorce. We cover virtually every aspect from, legal and financial to psychological and emotional.

Be advised, the information provided by Divorce Court Attorneys is general information related to divorce. Since every divorce is inherently different, for specific advice, we strongly admonish you to consult with a qualified divorce lawyer. Our website is in no shape, form or fashion designed to violate any local regulations or state laws regarding the practice of law. Remember, legal information is not legal advice.