What's the Process In Getting a Divorce?


Sep 11, 2018

The steps involved in getting a divorce will vary depending on the details in this specific circumstance. For example, if the couple getting divorced have only been married for a few months, do not have any children, and have shared little-to-no debts or property should not have nearly as complicated a proceeding as those who have children who are minors, or where there are several joint accounts or joint property leases.

Simply, the less there is to divide, the less time it should take.

When both parties involved agree to the divorce, then the process should be rather straightforward. If one has been blindsided by the news, they might attempt to prolong the process by any means necessary--including refusal to sign paperwork. However, the more you both agree on how to divide any assets, the quicker the process will go. The more fighting involved, the more time needs to be spent on each individual aspect of the divorce.

The Six Steps to Getting a Divorce

  1. Determine if you really want a divorce
  2.  Figure out if you need a lawyer  
  3. Gather important documentation
  4. Establish the separation agreement  
  5. Divide property, custody, and finances   
  6. Take a settlement or undergo trial

The Six Steps Explained

First things first--make absolutely sure there is no other way to restore the happiness your marriage was once built upon. After therapy, meditation, open and honest communication, uninterrupted vacations or peer advice have all failed, and you know that staying together for the kids would not be in their best interest, then be prepared to undergo the process of divorce. Although we would all hope the divorce process be fast and painless, most tend to lean towards complicated; this is because most married couples tend to have joint finances, children whose custody must be determined, and additional tax implications. In other words, no matter how simple you expect the divorce to go, it's a smart idea to consult with a lawyer first.

Your lawyer will need a wealth of documentation before creating a separation agreement to bring to the table. You'll want to gather these papers as early as possible to have the most time to replace any copies you may be missing. The following is a list of relevant documentation that you should bring to the lawyer:

  • Full names, addresses, Social Security numbers, and phone numbers of the spouses
  • Full names, addresses, Social Security numbers, and birth dates of children from the marriage, as well as their grade levels and schools
  • County and date in which the marriage took place
  • Any information about previous marriages, including a certified copy of the divorce paperwork from that marriage
  • A copy of any prenuptial agreement
  • Information about any previous attempts at separation and counseling
  • A list of substantial assets
  • Information about current income
  • Tax return for the previous year
  • Copies of applications for credit

Once all the paperwork has been gathered, the separation agreement is next. Plenty of time and work go into creating this legal document, so if a divorce suit has already begun, the court may order a spouse to financially support the other for the duration of the case. It could also temporarily dictate custody and make temporary restrictions on either parent, until the case is concluded and a final agreement has been made.

Details of property and financial division will vary heavily between states, but the core of the process is simple: Property is considered either Separate or Marital. Separate properties were obtained before or during the marriage but kept under one name. Marital properties were shared and purchased during the marriage. All property is given a fair market value, and it is typically distributed equitably between the two parties. This means attempting to distribute on a fairer basis than sticking to a 50-50 division.

Once both parties have finalized their own separation agreements, they must work with each other to figure out how to resolve any conflicts and disagreements. If you can settle on a happy medium, great! You'll be able to settle with as little conflict as possible. Otherwise, you'll need to go to trial to speak before a judge.

At the end of the settlement or trial, there is the order of dissolution. This is a document that lists the final resolution of the marriage and also symbolizes its end. As long as this document is legally sound and both parties have willingly entered into the agreement, then there should be no problem with the judge's approval. If this proves to be impossible, the court will issue its own final order of dissolution and end the trial on its own.