Did you know that there are around 15 divorces for every 1000 marriages in America? That figure is actually a lot lower than it used to be, but it’s still quite high! If you’re thinking of getting a divorce, you’re definitely not alone.
But there’s a lot to know before you start the proceedings. Learning more about getting divorced before you do can help you prepare yourself for what’s to come.
Read on to learn more about divorce proceedings.
How Does Divorce Work?
A lot of people forget that, first and foremost, marriage is a legal contract. Divorce is essentially trying to undo that legal contract while keeping both parties happy, which can be tough! The more entanglements a couple has (property, debt, children etc.) the trickier divorce proceedings become.
The typical divorce procedure follows these steps:
1. Filing the Divorce Petition
The first step is to file a legal divorce petition that requests that the court terminate the marriage. This is done by one spouse only, so can be done before the other spouse has agreed to the divorce. You’ll also have to give grounds for divorce at this point, which you can file as a no-fault divorce if neither party has done anything wrong and which will allow for a smoother process.
2. Requesting Temporary Orders
If you need action taking before the divorce can be finalized, you’ll have to ask for temporary orders. For example, if one partner is a stay-at-home parent and dependant on the financial support of their husband or wife, you might not be able to wait months and months. Temporary orders would allow you to file for child support and spousal support early.
This will be done through a proper hearing where the judge will hear from both spouses before deciding the outcome.
3. Serve your spouse
You must give a copy of the petition or divorce and any temporary orders to your spouse once you have them. You’ll then have to file for proof of service, which is a document confirming you’ve done this. If your spouse is unwilling to sign that they’ve received the documents, it’s wise to hire a legal professional who can help convince your partner to sign.
4. Negotiate a Settlement
If you have differences in opinion over certain divorce matters, you’ll have to work together to come to a settlement. This is simply a legal agreement that you’re both happy with and is often done with the help of attorneys. Common issues that require settlement negotiations include custody of children and splitting of assets, like property.
5. Divorce Trial
Negotiations don’t always work. This is known as a contested divorce, and to find out more about this it’s best to look into what is contested divorce.
In these cases, despite the best efforts of both spouses, the case will have to go to trial. This is very costly and takes a lot of time, so it’s always best to settle out of court. It also takes the power from your hands and lets a judge decide the fate of your future.
However, if you’re struggling to reach an agreement divorce trials are incredibly helpful. Once the judge has decided, that’s it; there’s no going back and no more fighting.
Do You Need a Lawyer When Getting Divorced?
If both spouses agree on every aspect of the divorce, from who gets the house to who looks after the dog, you can file for an uncontested divorce. In these cases, you don’t need a lawyer. Lots of couples find this an easier, cheaper, and quicker method of cutting their ties, and if you can get through a divorce without arguing then that’s definitely good news!
Even so, a lot of people will still hire a divorce lawyer to help them through an uncontested divorce. They can check over your agreement to ensure your interests are protected and give you an outsider who might be able to see matters clearer than you and your spouse.
Can You Get Divorced Anywhere?
In the US, you can’t get divorced anywhere you want. You have to get divorced in a state where at least one spouse has residency for a certain period of time (usually around 6 months, but this varies from state to state). Look into this before you file a divorce petition to make sure you actually can.
It’s also a good time to note that some states require you to be separated for a certain amount of time before you can apply for a divorce.
Have You Considered Mediation?
If your negotiations aren’t going well, there are alternatives to going straight to court. Mediation is a popular choice for spouses who just can’t agree and it’s a much nicer process. Your lawyers may recommend mediation if you can’t reach a settlement at a specific time, and it’s usually best to try it.
During mediation, a third-party mediator will sit down with both spouses to try and work through their settlement disagreements. They’re trained in helping partners see eye to eye and can make negotiations a lot less hostile. Your attorney won’t be allowed in the mediation sessions but you should consult with them outside.
Things to complete before filing for divorce
Never make a divorce threat before you are prepared to file
It will cause great harm to your partner, who might then begin to organize a divorce, move assets, and take advantage of the kids to your detriment. Take your time, carefully prepare your steps, and then file for divorce once everything is in order.
Organize your documents
The more money you can save during a divorce, the more effective you are. It will take time and money to organize things if your attorney receives your records in a disorganized state. Make copies of any important document you can find, then gather them all together. Look for:
- past tax returns
- bank statements
- check registers
- investment statements
- retirement account statements
- employee benefits handbooks
- life insurance policies
- mortgage documents
- financial statements
- credit card statements
- family trusts
- Social Security statements
- stock grants
- automobile titles
It is crucial to learn as much as you can about the economics of your spouse’s business if he or she is self-employed. Make copies of any important financial information that is on your computer at home or elsewhere in the house.
Focus on your children
Put your attention on your kids and how to lessen the effects of the divorce on their life. Your kids will be balanced and well-adjusted if you are. Make a schedule for how you and the other parent will split up the parenting time. Never ask the kids to choose a side in the conflict or participate in it. It is unfair and will make them experience emotional difficulties.
Make sure you have three months’ worth of money
If you are a spouse with limited financial means, make sure you have enough money saved to cover your costs for at least three months. When the divorce process begins, many husbands turn vengeful and might cut you off financially. Your attorneys can assist you financially, but it will take time.
Get the Best Legal Counsel You Can
This is not the time to skimp or believe everything your partner says. Check to see if your divorce lawyer has the qualifications and reputation you need. Having the greatest representation is essential during this extremely trying period in your life. Visit websites like Superlawyers.com, AVVO.com, 5280 magazine, or Best Lawyers in America to see how they are rated. If your partner advises you against consulting a lawyer, you should be extremely wary.
Make sure you have credit available
Apply for your own credit card since, if you file for divorce, your husband might deny you access to it. Having credit available will allow you to make purchases while your lawyers seek court orders pertaining to temporary financial help.
If there is a history or risk of domestic violence, have a safety plan
Recognize that if you leave your partner, the violence may get worse. Do not be persuaded to seek a protection order, though, unless it is truly essential. The most hotly contested cases are frequently those that begin with the filing of a protective order excluding your spouse from the house and the kids. Sometimes, using something as a weapon will end up costing you. You need to be careful to get the best counsel and representation because every decision you make during a divorce will have an impact on your life for a very long time.
Possession is the law in 90% of cases
In cases involving child custody, possession may constitute ninety percent of the law. It is far more shrewd to keep custody of the kids up until you come up with an interim parenting schedule unless there is a compelling cause to separate right away. Make sure you are familiar with the kids’ teachers, therapists, doctors, and other experts. The last thing you want is for a teacher to inform an assessor that they have never met you and have no idea what you look like.
Surround yourself with supportive family and friends. You will require all the support and help you can get.
Try to be respectful and civil to your spouse
In the future, you might have to go to their weddings, graduations, and funerals. Avoid making statements in anger. Never contact someone when you are upset or angry. You will be haunted by them after the divorce. Keep in mind that while going through this will be difficult, you will grow stronger as a result. Our attorneys can assist.
The Issues in a Divorce
As part of your divorce, you will have to address a number of issues related to ending your marriage. Either on your own or with the aid of divorce mediation, you and your spouse can bargain and come to an understanding on those matters. If you cannot agree on any issue, a judge will have to decide for you after holding a trial.
During a divorce, couples will often need to divide their assets and liabilities. In the majority of states, only marital property—typically, assets obtained during the marriage and debts incurred during that time—is divided between the couples. The particular procedures for distributing marital property mostly depend on whether you live in an “equitable distribution” state or a “community property” jurisdiction.
Most states follow the notion of equal distribution. That implies allocating assets and debts between the spouses in a way that is fair, but not necessarily equal. The court will analyze the circumstances in each case—including any specific circumstances stated in the law—before deciding on a fair distribution.
In places where there is a community of property, regardless of the title to the property, the law presumes that the spouses jointly own all of their marital property. Typical examples of community property are:
- any and all property, irrespective of whose name it is in, obtained by either spouse throughout the marriage
- the incomes of each spouse during the marriage, and
- debts acquired during a marriage by either partner.
In the past, regulations governing community property demanded an equal partition of such property in the event of a divorce. However, several jurisdictions with community property now require or let courts split a couple’s community property in a fair manner, essentially following the same logic as those with equitable division laws. Still, judges in these states normally strive for something near to a 50/50 split.
If you’re considering getting divorced, give yourself time to think it through properly and – if you can – speak to your partner about it first. Breaking a legal contract isn’t easy and it’s going to take time, so if you think separation will do for now it could be a better choice. If you want to cut all ties to your spouse and have a completely clean break, opt for divorce.
If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check out more on our website! We write across a range of topics, including relationships, parenting, and home management.