The Divorce Process: What to Expect Step by Step
Considering a divorce can be a daunting experience. It’s an unpredictable situation, especially if your spouse is the one pursing action. It can be extremely difficult to handle the emotional side of a divorce, but the legal side has to be handled as well. It can leave you feeling helpless, wondering what to expect in the divorce process. Unfortunately, divorce doesn’t come with a step by step manual. Each state has their own laws and regulations about divorce, but there is a broad, basic set of steps in the process that will apply to almost every divorce.
Breaking It Down
Once you (or your spouse) have decided to divorce, there are two issues that need to be addressed immediately: temporary living arrangements and telling your children (if you have any). The following 8 steps will help you break down what may seem like an overwhelming process into smaller, more manageable pieces.
Find a Lawyer: Many people are attracted to the idea of a “DIY” divorce, thinking it will save them money and time. Unfortunately, regardless of how cordial or understanding you and your spouse are with each other, most divorces are complicated at some point – between custody issues, financial regulations, property division and more, the wise choice would be to have at least one consultation with a divorce attorney before beginning the divorce process, even if you end up continuing the process on your own.
Temporary Living Arrangements: Some states have laws regarding legal separation, so that may seem like the most logical first step in the process, and it usually is. However, even if being legally separated is a mutual decision, finding a certified divorce attorney should be your first step, to make sure that your best interests are at the forefront of the proceedings. You want to make sure that everything is above board legally, so understanding the laws surrounding legal separation and the divorce process is necessary.
Telling the Kids: If you have children, they need to remain a priority, regardless of the step you find yourselves on in the divorce process. Most child therapists recommend that parents tell the kids together, avoiding blame and trying to stay unified, and, most importantly, assuring the kids that you both love them and will always be there for them. Kids can be extremely perceptive, so the concept that the family structure is changing rather than ending or breaking is the best approach. However, there are exceptions to every rule. If you are in an abusive relationship of any kind, or the chances are high that your divorce will be contentious, it is recommended that you consult with a certified divorce professional.
Provisional Divorce Orders: Courts can issue temporary orders that outline specific actions that have to take place immediately, and they can last until the final divorce hearing is complete. Examples of things covered in temporary orders are child support, spousal support and child custody. These orders are legally binding, and if you don’t follow them, you’re considered in contempt of court. If found in contempt, you can be jailed or fined according to the discretion of the judge.
Divorce Discovery: “Discovery” is the legal term for gathering information about both parties in the divorce proceedings. While every state has their own laws regarding discovery, there are five common steps in discovery that you should be prepared for:
- Disclosure:Both parties request certain items from the other party. The list of items is sent to the other side and they must respond within 30 days.
- Interrogatories:This is a list of questions that you send to the opposing side. Most states set limits on how many questions and the response time is thirty days.
- Admissions of Fact:This written list of facts is directed at the other party. The party receiving the list of facts is asked to either admit to or deny each fact.
- Request for Production:Used to obtain documents such as bank statements, statements of income or any documents you feel will benefit your case.
- Depositions:During a deposition, sworn testimony is taken from the opposing party and any witnesses involved. Anything said during a deposition can be used in court, should an agreement not be met and you go to divorce court.
Divorce Mediation: If you and your spouse can come to an agreement on all terms presented in the divorce petition, then this should be your last step in the divorce process. The “mediator” is a court appointed attorney or arbitrator. Their job is to negotiate a settlement between the parties, so if an agreement has been made and there are no conflicts, then mediation is the end.
Divorce Court: If mediation didn’t work, then a trial date will be set. During the trial, both parties have the chance to argue their case before a judge. It’s imperative that you and your attorney discuss proper courtroom behavior so you can make a good impression on the judge, and that you have every necessary document, witness and bit of proof needed to present your case. The judge will examine all of the evidence and make a decision based on what he or she feels would be a proper divorce settlement and outcome. Most judges hand down their decision within 14 days of the court date.
Post Divorce Court: Once a judge has made a decision, the parties will sign the final decree of divorce. The final decree states how any marital property will be divided, any orders pertaining to child custody, child support amounts, any spousal maintenance that is ordered and any other issues pertinent to the dissolution of the marriage. If you feel that the court’s orders are unfair, you may then file a motion to appeal the order and request a new hearing to be set. If the court denies your motion, you would then file an appeal with the state appellate court.
Find the Support You Need
If you’re in the greater Huntsville, AL area and need an experienced law firm to help you with your divorce, contact us at the Alabama Law Group. We can help you understand the divorce process and ensure that your interests are taken care of. Call us today!