Divorce 101: A Basic Overview of the Divorce Process

Divorce 101: A Basic Overview of the Divorce Process

Divorce 101: A Basic Overview of the Divorce Process

People get divorced every day in our country. Though the act of divorce is common, the divorce process can vary depending on the married couple’s situation. Marriages that dissolve within a short period of time and have no property or children involved, typically result in a shorter and less complicated divorce process than long-term marriages. This difference in complexity hinges on the fact that long-term marriages generally have minor children, accumulated debt, and shared property ownership.

 In addition, it is possible to have a less expensive and less stressful divorce process if couples work together to negotiate the divorce terms. These terms often include spousal support, child custody, property division, child support, and debt allocation. On the other hand, couples who refuse to work together or who can't agree on terms are in for a long, stressful, expensive divorce proceeding.

Step 1: Filing for divorce

Filing a legal petition requesting that the court terminate the marriage has to be done before a divorce process can begin. Filing the divorce petition does not require both spouses to agree to the divorce. The spouse filing the divorce, petition must include the following information.

  • A statement proving to the court that at least one of the spouses meets their states residency requirements for a divorce.
  • A grounds or legal reason for the divorce
  • Any other required statutory information for the state

State residency requirements vary depending on your location, but at minimum require one spouse to live in the state for anywhere from 3 to 12 months and in the county where the divorce petition is filed for ten days to six months before a petition can be accepted. A divorce case cannot be accepted by the court without a state's residency requirement being met.

Legal grounds for a divorce vary by state, but every state offers couples and option of filing a no-fault divorce. If a petition filer wants to avoid placing blame or listing a specific reason for divorce, a no-fault divorce is a much more streamlined process. Some states allow petitioners to claim fault for a divorce if their spouse committed marital misconduct or caused the separation. Contact a divorce attorney in Orlando if you are unsure whether to file a fault or no-fault divorce petition.

Step 2: Temporary orders

When filing a divorce petition, the court will allow request for temporary orders including child support, child custody, and spousal support. Temporary orders can be beneficial for stay-at-home parents that are raising their children in the home or spouses that are dependent on their partner for financial support. If a temporary order request is made the court will hold proceedings and request information from both spouses before making a ruling on how to move forward. If a temporary order is granted, it is valid very quickly and remains in place until the court orders otherwise or the divorce has been finalized.

Outside of temporary support orders, there are other legal orders that can be requested when filing for a divorce. A temporary property restraining order protects the marital property by allowing neither spouse to giveaway, sell, or dispose of marital property during the divorce process. Status quo orders require the breadwinner to continue paying marital debts throughout the divorce process. It's important to note that in most cases, both spouses have to follow restraining orders or risk being penalized by the court. While temporary orders are generally filed with the divorce petition, they can be filed later but should be requested as quickly as possible.

Step 3: Serve the papers

It is the filing spouse’s responsibility to make sure that the divorce papers are served to their spouse. After filing the divorce petition and requesting temporary orders, it is your responsibility to provide a copy of divorce paperwork to your spouse and to file proof of service with the court system. Serving your spouse properly is very important because without properly serving them or neglecting to file proof of service with the court, you cannot move forward with your divorce case. If your spouse is willing to sign an acknowledgement of service because they agree with the divorce, service of process can be very easy.

If a spouse does not agree with the divorce or just wants to make the whole process complicated, they can hide and be evasive and do anything to slow down the process. Hiring a professional process server who is licensed and experienced with delivering legal documents to difficult parties can be the easiest way to ensure that your spouse is served properly.

Responding to the divorce petition is the responsibility of the receiving spouse. If the receiving spouse fails to file an answer within the prescribed time period, the divorce could result in a default judgment against the non-responsive party. It is important to keep in mind that a default judgment is very expensive and complicated to reverse. And, in filing an answer to the court the responding party has the option to dispute the grounds for divorce and argue any disagreements to support, property, custody, or other issues.

Step 4: Settlement negotiations

In cases where spouses don't agree on the terms of the divorce including spousal support, child custody, and property division the court expects the spouses to work together to come to an agreement. Settlement conferences are scheduled by many courts where spouses and their attorneys meet with the court to discuss the status of their case. If spouses are not able to resolve issues, the court may schedule mediation. Mediation involves a third party helping to facilitate discussion between the spouses to try to come to an agreement. The requirement for mediation can vary from state to state, but mediation is often a smart decision for many divorcing couples because it can save time and money during the divorce process.

Step 5: Trial

Divorce, trials are required when negotiations fail regardless of both spouses’ best efforts to come to an agreement. Any unresolved issues after mediation or other talks will lead to a divorce trial. It's important to note that divorce trials are costly and time-consuming, and take the power out of the hands of the spouses to come to an agreement, putting all of the power in the hands of a judge. Resolving issues through mediation and negotiations will allow the couple to keep control of the situation and have much more predictable results.

Step 6: Finalizing the divorce

A divorce is never final until the judge signs a judgment of divorce, whether you and your spouse negotiated through the divorce process or important issues were decided by the courts. Once the judge signs, the order of dissolution, the marriage is officially over. An order of dissolution includes specifics about spousal or child support, how assets and debts are divided, custody, and parenting time. A judge issues the final order if a couple went through a divorce trial, while if a negotiation was settled the judgment is usually drafted by the filing spouse’s lawyer.

If you are going through a divorce, contact a divorce attorney in Orlando to figure out your options.

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