The decision to divorce can be difficult and full of complications, but once you decide to dissolve your marriage, it is important that you learn how to start divorce proceedings properly. Although every divorce is different, follow the basic steps below to protect yourself and expedite the process.
How to Start Divorce Proceedings
Before you take any action, find an experienced and knowledgeable attorney to lead you through the process. Not only will this ensure that your rights are protected, but it will also relieve some of your stress and help you avoid mistakes that are either costly to fix or cannot be fixed at all. Divorce can be time-consuming, taxing, expensive, and emotional, and it often involves complex property transfers, tax issues, child custody, maintenance (formerly referred to as alimony), and more. Having the right attorney means that you can make informed decisions on these very important issues.
If you and your spouse cannot agree on the many issues associated with divorce (custody, support, and property division, for example), you should consider utilizing a mediator. A mediator is a neutral party who has significant legal experience with divorce cases. The mediator does not advocate for either party, but rather attempts to help the parties come to an agreement on disputed issues. The mediator may be able to help you negotiate your divorce and create a satisfying agreement together, which may save you thousands of dollars in legal fees.
Some couples choose to legally separate for a period of time rather than dissolving their marriage. During this period, a legal separation would be advisable for protection. A legal separation details items such as financial relief, child custody, child support, visitation rights, and division of property. A legal separation can later be converted to a divorce if need be.
Petition for Divorce
You must file a petition for divorce to initiate the marriage’s dissolution. This will document your wish to dissolve your marriage, the grounds for divorce, and anything else you wish to address (property division, child custody, interim support, legal fees, etc). Many states offer a “no fault” divorce, which means you can simply cite “irreconcilable differences” as your grounds for divorce. The defendant must respond to the petition by a specified deadline.
Sometimes the Court will issue temporary orders, specifying actions that must be taken while the divorce is pending. For example, the Court may require the payment of child support or spousal support to ensure that the parties involved will be protected until the final divorce hearing.
If the divorce case is contested and a trial is likely, the lawyers for each party will engage in a process to discover information on the issues the judge will have to decide. Each lawyer will gather as much information as possible, focusing significantly on financial matters. The discovery process is meticulous and time-consuming, and you will need to assist your attorney in obtaining a variety of financial documentation.
The steps above will help you begin your divorce proceedings, but before the dissolution can be finalized, several other actions will occur. These include decisions regarding property division, financial support, child support and custody, and visitation rights. After that, you and your spouse will sign several documents to finalize the dissolution of your marriage. These documents will be reviewed by a court clerk, who will pass them on to a judge, who will sign the Judgment of Divorce to officially end the marriage.
When you’re ready to learn how to start divorce proceedings, please contact Replogle, Tyrrell & Robertson. Our attorneys understand that every family law case is different, and with our experience and dedication, we can help you prepare for your divorce, make sensible decisions, and address any problems that arise. Give us a call at 417-859-3979 (our Marshfield office) or 417-893-5121 (our Springfield office) to get started.