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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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