The word “divorce” gets tossed around by a lot of people who don’t actually understand the process. There are eligibility requirements, multiple steps, court summons, mediation/settling options, and a whole lot more. Today, I’m here to demystify the whole divorce process for you. I’m not personally a lawyer, so for any actual legal advice, you’ll want to talk to The Professionals. However, I have done the research so you don’t have to! So, let’s say you want a divorce. Where would you begin?

The Petition:

Some states call this the “complaint”, but it means the same thing. The petition is the very first step of a divorce. The filing spouse, or “petitioner”, approaches the court with the document. The petition contains the name of the other spouse, the grounds for divorce, the names of any children, and an outline of how the petitioner would like to divide property, money, custody, etc.

A couple having a fight

Fault vs No Fault

As of 2010, (thanks, New York) every state in the union will support a “no-fault” reason for divorce. This is usually written as “irreconcilable differences” or something similar. When you file “no-fault” as the grounds for a divorce, you’re basically stating that the divorce isn’t anybody’s fault and that it just… didn’t work. Things get a lot more complicated when we file differently and say that it was, indeed, your spouse’s fault that the marriage didn’t work. Many states don’t even recognize fault divorce anymore. Georgia stands strong, though, with twelve (!) different ways to claim that the divorce is your partner’s fault. These reasons can range from adultery and abuse to incurable mental illness. Going through with a fault divorce is a lot more time consuming than it would be with a no-fault petition. The court may rely on testimonials and evidence to prove said fault, and there will be defensive measures as well. Evidence discovery can play a big role because, for example, the divorce cannot be granted on the basis of adultery if both partners were having an affair.
At the end of the day, though, states are not interested in forcing a couple to stay together if they don’t want to be married. A divorce will often be granted if someone wants it, the devil is just in the details.

Temporary Orders:

After filing the petition, any temporary but necessary actions are taken. If any kind of financial support or child custody will be involved in the case, these processes begin now. For example, if the filing spouse needs financial support from his wife, the court will arrange for that so both members of the soon-to-be-terminated marriage can continue paying any bills. Likewise, if she needs custody of the kids until the actual custody hearing, said arrangements are made. If the party filing the actual petition needs either of these arrangements or any others, this should be made clear at the time of the petitioning. If you need custody or financial support and you’re the one being served with divorce papers, you’ll want to get these temporary orders in place as soon as possible. During this time period, both partners are prevented from tampering with assets, insurance, or any kind of shared property in the marriage. It’s imperative that you toe the line, even if it seems like something titled “temporary orders” isn’t very important. Any violation of these boundaries can have you found in contempt or court. Not only could you face a fine or jail time, but you may flush away your chances of the divorce going favorably for you. Nothing proves to a judge that you’re incapable of being a solid presence in the children’s lives, for example, if you violate even the temporary custody rules.

The Process Serving:

The actual service of process is the official moment at which the other spouse is made aware of the divorce intent. If both members of the marriage are in agreement, this part is usually simple. The petition is simply shown to the defending party’s attorney and life goes on pretty smoothly. It’s when the defending party doesn’t agree with the divorce or is taken by surprise that things get complicated. At this point, the defense will file a response. This can range anywhere from simple agreement to disagreeing with any points in the original petition. These points can be custody, property division, financial support, determination of fault, or anything else in the original petition. Any differences outlined here need to be settled in either mediation or divorce court.

A couple in counselingMediation:

This is the last step before taking the issue to an actual judge in court. If both parties can work out the custodial and financial aspects of the divorce here, everyone’s life is way easier. This is far less expensive and formal than an actual court hearing. I recommend mediation as a solution to many problems before taking it to court, but it’s especially important in a divorce scenario. This process can be extremely trying on both parties, so it’s ideally over as quickly as possible.

Court:A Judge Gavel with some rings

Settling the divorce in court can add quite a lot of time to the whole process. However, if all points cannot be agreed upon during mediation, a presiding judge is necessary. During a trial, each party will argue their points in an attempt to work the divorce into something favorable for them. It’s always a good idea to play nice during this process. Dress well, be polite, follow the rules, and prove to the judge that you’re a responsible adult who deserves to have the divorce go your way. If the case has come this far, that means we need to prove something one way or the other. Be this financial (in)dependence, who should have custody, or who was actually at fault, or any number of other matters. Regardless, there will be some discoveries by the court here. Presentation of evidence, testimonies, witnesses, anything that can be done to support one side or another. After all of the proceedings, the court will issue an Order of Dissolution, declaring the marriage over according to the decided-upon terms.
The process of divorce isn’t an easy one, and often involves more steps than either party expected. Having a clear idea of financial obligations and the custody situation, as well as being able to negotiate well with your partner, will make things much easier by ending them in the mediation period. Before even taking the first step of filing for divorce, I can’t recommend enough that you speak with a qualified divorce lawyer. We can save you so much time and money it’s not worth trying to do on your own. Hopefully, you’ll never have to go through a divorce, but if you do, you’ll find the law simple and straightforward here in Post Falls.