Stages of a Divorce
By Eddie Fishman
In every divorce, there are certain procedures that are followed. This article is a simplified overview of the procedures that typically occur in a divorce and is broken down into four separate stages.
Starting a Divorce
A divorce starts with the filing of a petition and original notice with the Court. After these documents are filed with the Court, the Court will issue a family law requirements order. The petition, an original notice, and family law requirements order are then served on the other spouse. This can be done by the other spouse signing an acceptance of service acknowledging that the other spouse received the documents, or by having a process server personally serve the other spouse. Often times, the other spouse chooses to sign an acceptance of service to avoid a process server showing up at the spouse’s house or work. After being served, the non-filing party files an answer.
Family Law Requirements Order
The family law requirements order contains the information about the next couple of steps. If the couple has minor children, the family law requirements order will set the date that child support requirements will need to be filed with the Court, and when the child in the middle class will need to be completed. This order will also set the date when a financial affidavit will need to be completed and when documentation supporting the numbers in the financial affidavit will need to be exchanged with the other party. A financial affidavit is a document that provides a current snapshot of your assets and debts. A pretrial conference is also set in this order. If the requirements in this paragraph are not met by the time of the pretrial conference, it can result in penalties or sanctions being imposed on the noncomplying party.
The next step may be a mediation. A mediation will consist of an attorney that does not represent either party and the parties meeting at a set date and time. The mediation can be in-person, but are increasingly done via Zoom. The mediator will try to help the parties come to an agreement on property and debt division, alimony (if applicable), child custody and visitation (if applicable), and child support (if applicable).
Settlement or Trial
If mediation is utilized and is successful, a stipulation will be drafted and submitted to the Court for the Court’s approval. Additional documents may need to be prepared to effectuate the divorce such as orders to split retirement accounts, quit claim deeds, and other documents. If mediation is not successful a trial will be set.
It is important to note that every divorce is different, and it may not follow this roadmap. Additionally, various discovery can occur between each stage, as can other hearings and utilization of procedures not mentioned in this article. It is important to consult with a trusted attorney when going through a divorce.
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