Making the decision to divorce is the most important step in any divorce. It is serious and means that you are ready to end your marriage. This decision can often be clear, while other times not. Although the legal process can be stopped, engaging it can lead to a myriad of charged emotions, broken trust, and other problems. Thus, it is very important that you don’t start the divorce process until you are absolutely sure that you want to end your marriage.
A divorce is initiated through what is commonly referred to as a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. Irreconcilable differences are the most commonly used grounds for divorce because it negates the need to air anyone’s dirty laundry in open court. The “fault” grounds for divorce often include adultery, bigamy, physical cruelty, mental cruelty, desertion, drug addiction, conviction of a felony and impotence.
Step 1: File a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.
The Petition for Dissolution of Marriage represents the formal request to the court for a divorce and outlines your position on issues such as custody of children, debts, and property, so your spouse can respond to these issues.
Step 2: File and Serve Your Documents
One your documents are prepared, bring the original signed copy of your Petition and Summons to the court clerk’s office at your local courthouse. At this point, you will pay the required filing fees, and the clerk will set up a case file. Once you receive the official file stamped documents back from the court clerk will take the Summons and Petition for a process server to be served on your spouse.
Step 3: Wait for Your Spouse to Respond:
Once served with the Petition and Summons, your spouse, will have 30 days to respond with a written document outlining their position on the case. If your spouse fails to file a response after 30 days have passed, they may be considered to be in default. If the court decides that a response will not be filed, it may issue a final ruling on the issues raised in your Petition.
Step 5: Discovery
Discovery involves the formal exchange of information between the parties. In this portion of the case, information collected will be used to examine the merits of the other party’s objections to any of the issues raised in the Petition. Further, discovery can be used to determine your spouse’s ability to pay maintenance and support and to establish the value of the marital estate.
Step 6: Trial
If a settlement cannot be reached a divorce case may require a trial whereby evidence is presented in court and testimony is taken from the parties and other witnesses on the issues being contested. At the conclusion of the trial, a final divorce judgment will be entered providing a resolution to all issues raised in the Petition and your spouse’s response. At this time, the couple is no longer married in the eyes of the law and any other obligations regarding finances or children become legally binding.