How To Get A Divorce: 7 Steps Process And Realistic Timeframe

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When you get married to the person you have chosen, the term divorce seems like something that won’t ever happen to you. But sometimes marriages fail, and you have to go through the process of divorce. While divorce can be an emotionally draining experience, it is still essential to know the various nuances about it.

In this MomJunction post, we acquaint you with how to get a divorce and the various steps involved in it.

Pre-Divorce Process

  • Decide if you really want it

A marriage is a strong bond that binds not only two people but two families. Petty quarrels and differences in opinion among a married couple may not be reasons enough to seek divorce. These matters are common and can be resolved through discussion. If you are still on the fence about divorce, then marriage counseling could be a way out.

  • Choose the best route

There are three ways to get a divorce. First is a collaborative divorce where your attorney and your spouse’s attorney will try to figure things out in a simple manner. This helps to get a quick divorce. The second option is litigation, where you hire attorneys and duke it out till the time a settlement is reached. The third option is the kitchen table option wherein you and your spouse sit and discuss the terms for the split.

  • Hire an attorney

Hire a qualified and experienced attorney to take care of all the legalities and save time. Make sure you hire a person you can trust, who is knowledgeable, responsive, ethical, and empathetic. If you are a layman and you choose to represent yourself, then make sure you learn all the delicate details of the law and the divorce proceedings.

  • Be prepared

If you know someone who has been through a divorce, then they will probably tell you that waiting and being prepared for the expenses helps. The divorce process takes longer than most people assume and is likely to be expensive. Make sure you have the funds and the patience required for it before you file for a divorce.

How To Get A Divorce?

The process will vary depending on the situation of a couple.

Short-term marriages with no children or property involved can be ended quickly as compared to long marriages with children and property involved. In most cases, the following process would work.

Step 1: File the divorce petition

A divorce petition is a legal request to the court to terminate your marriage. An attorney will guide you on how to file a divorce petition, which can be filed either by you, your spouse, or both.

  • In most cases, the process of filing will include a legal reason for the divorce and a statement that confirms that one spouse meets the residency requirements of the state.
  • You may also need to fulfill any other statutory information requested by the state where the divorce is being filed.
  • In case you don’t have a solid legal reason or grounds for divorce, you can still file a no-fault divorce.
  • Remember that the process will involve paying an attorney’s fee, legal fee, etc. The fee can vary depending on several factors, including the state you reside, and if there is any property claim or child guardianship involved in the divorce petition.

Step 2: Ask for a temporary order

After you have filed for the divorce, you can ask for a temporary order. It is handy if the couple does not want to live together right from the moment of filing the divorce. A temporary order is most useful in cases of domestic violence.

The court will decide the best option for the time being. For instance, if you fear that your spouse can harm you or your children, then the court may ask your spouse not to visit you until the divorce is finalized. Usually, the temporary order stays valid until the divorce is finalized or the court decides otherwise.

Step 3: Serve the spouse and await a response

After you have filed for a divorce and received temporary orders, then the next step is to share a copy of the paperwork with your spouse. You can deliver the papers to the spouse’s attorney.

  • You also need to file proof of service, a document that says you have met the statutory requirement of providing a copy of the divorce petition to your spouse. If you fail to share the necessary documents with your spouse or don’t file proof of service with the court, then the judge will not proceed with your divorce case.
  • Once the paperwork has been delivered, the spouse who has received it needs to file an answer or respond to the petition within a specified time limit.
  • If the receiving spouse (respondent or defendant) fails to respond to the petition during the set time limit, the judge can order a default judgment that can be complicated, unfavorable, and expensive to reverse.
  • The responding party can dispute the grounds for the divorce or can dispute the allegations you made in the petition. They are also free to assert disagreements regarding support and custody of children, a property claim, or any other aspect of the divorce.

Step 4: Seek a Settlement

Once all the paperwork has been done, you can seek a settlement with your spouse outside the court. It will ensure that you don’t battle it out in the court to save money and also speed up the process.

There are two common methods of settlement.

  • The first is a settlement conference where you, your spouse, and both your attorneys will negotiate to reach a mutually acceptable agreement.

Step 5: Financial disclosures

When your divorce is in process, you need to complete a financial affidavit within 45 days of the date of service to the petition. You need to provide the signed affidavit to your spouse within this timeframe.

It is also wise to back them up with financial documents such as those pertaining to your income (pay slips), tax return information, assets, financial statements, bank statements, credit card statements, and copies of any application for credit (such as mortgage applications), among others.

If you fail to disclose all the vital financial information that your spouse or court should know, then you may face sanctions in a divorce case.

Step 6: Trial in the court

If all the methods of compromise fail to bring positive results, then you and your spouse will have to battle it in the court. It should be the last option since it involves a lot of time and money for both the couple and the court. At this stage, everything the judge decides is final.

Step 7: The judgment

The judge will dissolve your marriage and will lay the orders for the division of assets and parenting duties (who gets custody of children) and decide the resolution of money matters if any. A judgment of divorce will be signed by the judge, and you will be legally separated from your spouse. 

What Is A Realistic Timeframe For A Divorce?

The timeline depends on factors such as money and property conflicts, custody of children, etc. There are some legal formalities involved that may take time. For instance, a judge will sign off the final paperwork only after 60 days since you served your spouse. The simplest way to speed up the process is to ensure you and your spouse agree to everything.

The divorce process is also quick if your spouse fails to respond to the petition at all, as a default decree can be entered. Usually, the judge will speed up the process if the case has been going on for about a year. In most cases, the divorce will take a couple of months. Only in extreme cases would the process take longer than a year.

Getting divorced is a big decision in life. The process is long, too, unless you and your spouse agree on the terms of divorce. Discuss the financial and emotional aspects of getting divorced with an attorney and proceed accordingly.

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Shikha Thakur

Shikha is a writer-turned-associate editor at MomJunction. Her core interest lies in writing articles that guide couples through their courtship to marriage and parenthood. She also specializes in baby names. Being a postgraduate in Human Resources, she likes understanding people and their relationships. This reflects in her relationship articles, where she deals with both the rosy and the grey side... more