The process itself, is quite simple. However, we would encourage anyone considering filing for divorce to first meet with an attorney to have a full understanding of the process and more importantly, to learn the law as it applies to your set of circumstances.
The two routes to divorce are contested or uncontested. If you and your spouse agree on every single issue of your divorce, including the division of assets and timesharing for the children, then your action is uncontested. If this is the case, the process is reduced to the drafting of a petition, a marital settlement agreement, and a ten minute hearing in front of a judge to finalize the divorce. Most divorce actions are contested, at least to one issue, and require the following process:
Step One: File and Serve.
Your attorney will draft a petition outlining each issue that the Court will need to resolve during this process. If you choose to represent yourself, the Clerk of Courts has packets with the basic forms for filing for divorce. Please note however, these forms offer the bare bones, and you will certainly need to include additional paper to cover all the issues.
The cost of filing the petition is $409.00 and the summons which must be issued to serve the petition is $10.00. After filing, a process server must be hired to serve the petition on your spouse. Your spouse will then have 20 days to file an answer to your petition.
Step Two: Discovery.
Both parties are required to produce certain financial documents within 45 days of service, so that both parties have full disclosure of any and all assets and debts that the court may need to distribute.
Step Three: Mediation.
You are required to attend mediation with your spouse (you may choose to have your attorney attend) prior to holding a hearing in front of a judge. Of course, there are exceptions, such as certain emergencies. At mediation, you may reach a full agreement and end your case early, or a partial agreement, making your case easier, or no agreement, in which case you proceed to court.
Step Four: Temporary Relief Hearing.
The judge’s trial dockets are often set nine or ten months from the date we notice the case for trial. Which means that the status quo will continue for that same period of time. Filing a motion for temporary relief allows both parties to receive limited resolution on a temporary basis. The main issues usually heard during this time are alimony, child support, and timesharing with the children.
Step Five: Trial.
After months of preparation, your case will be heard in front a judge and evidence and testimony will be presented. At the end of the day, the judge will issue a ruling on the terms of your divorce and you will leave the courtroom a single person, free to begin a new chapter of your life.
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