The 7 Steps of A Divorce

photo credit: banjo d
photo credit: banjo d

Today we are going to have an overview of the basic divorce process.

The steps taken in order to obtain a divorce will depend on the specific situation of the parties involved in the divorce. A divorce that is sought by parties that were married for a short time, had no children and few assets or debts will be less involving than a divorce where parties have been married for a number of years, have minor children or have many assets, properties or debt to divide. The divorce process is much simpler when both parties agree to have the divorce. If one party is taken by surprise when receiving the divorce papers, they might stall for time, doing whatever they can to prolong the process. Generally, the more the parties can agree on between themselves, the faster and smoother the divorce will be finalized. If the couple is constantly fighting for one thing or another and disagreements abound, the process will take longer.

Filing the petition

The first step in the process of obtaining a divorce is the filing of the petition. Even in cases where both parties agree to the divorce, one of them will have to file the divorce petition with the court. The grounds for divorce are spelled out in the petition. The grounds for divorce vary from state to state. All states allow for one kind or another of no-fault grounds such as “irreconcilable differences”, but only a few jurisdictions still consider fault grounds for divorce, such as abandonment, domestic violence or adultery.

Your attorney will help you with this information and tell you whether fault grounds are available in your state, and if so, whether it’s worth it to file divorce on these grounds.

Temporary orders

Temporary orders are used when one of the spouses depends on the other for financial support or if they will have custody of the children, child support. In order to obtain custody and support, that spouse will have to ask the court for temporary orders. A stay at home mom for example, will require financial support from her husband to be able to pay current household bills. She may also be looking for a temporary order for custody and temporary child support order for the kids. Temporary orders are granted rather quick – within a couple of days and will last until a full court hearing. If the spouse that is seeking the temporary order also the one who is filing the petition, it reasons that they will have to file them at the same time. If this did not happen they should file their temporary order request as soon as possible.

Service of process

Another document that must be provided by the party that is filing the divorce petition is proof of service of process. This paper confirms that a copy of the divorce petition was given to the other involved party. If the parties have mutually agreed on proceeding with the divorce, it is best for the one who has filed the petition to also arrange for the service of process to the other party’s lawyer. This is considered a dignified service of process. An undignified service of process would occur when, for example, the process server visits the spouse at his or her place of employment to serve the divorce papers.


The spouse that receives the service of process will have to file a response to the divorce petition. If the divorce is sought on fault grounds and the responding party wants to dispute these claims, he or she will have to write this down in the response. The responding party usually has the option to dispute the facts that are alleged to be grounds for the separation or they may choose to assert a defense to the grounds. If the responding party does not agree to the property division, custody, support or other issue related to the divorce, they must address this in the response.


If the parties do not agree on the division of property, custody or support, the process of negotiation begins. Settlement conferences may be scheduled by the court in order to move the parties toward a resolution of their differences. If there is disagreement on child custody and visitation, the court may order mediation, evaluation of parents and children with the help of a social worker or other court employee and that a guardian or lawyer be appointed to represent the children. Other differences that are negotiated are property division and alimony.


If there are issues that the parties could not agree on, they will be decided at the trial. Going to trial takes more time and money and has unpredictable results. Family law attorneys recommend avoiding going to trial if possible.

Order of Dissolution

The order of dissolution legally ends the marriage and states how the property and debts will be divided between the parties, along with custody, support, visitation and other issues. If the parties have negotiated and agreed on all issues without going to trial, they will draft the order and submit it to court. The judge will approve it if the order is compliant with all legal requirements and all parties have accepted it knowingly and willingly. Otherwise, the Order of Dissolution is issued at the end of the trial.

Are you planning to file or currently going through a divorce? Talk to a divorce attorney to find out what your options are. If you and your spouse would rather settle out of court, the whole process can be quickly and at an affordable price.