Parting Ways, Step By Step

The divorce issue may have caught you by surprise or you may have spent some time in consideration of it, but either way it can feel like a confusing time. You don't know what to do and at times you feel overwhelmed. While speaking to your divorce lawyer will resolve a lot of issues, it may be helpful to learn about the steps that lead up to a divorce being final. Read on to learn more.

Separation: While it's not strictly a law that you and your spouse should live apart, many divorcing couples do. No matter what your living situation is, however, you should not miss this opportunity to turn your separation period into a legal matter by using a legal separation agreement. Here, you can address child custody, support and visitation, debt and property and even spousal support.

Petitions: This is the first formal step in the process, also known as the original petition or letter of complaint. This is the document that accompanies "getting served" and details information about the parties and their intention to cease living as husband and wife. In states that still allow fault to be used in a divorce, the reason (or grounds) will be mentioned here as well.

Temporary Orders of Relief: Don't wait for the divorce to become final to have child support and other matters attended to. Hearings can be held and matters like debt, the family home, production of documents and more are addressed through a series of orders that occur before and during the trial, if you have one.

Discovery: This is a pretrial process where each party requests certain documents, trades evidence and completes questionnaires. There may also be a deposition in more complex cases.

Mediation: More and more family courts are taking a different route to resolving issues during a divorce using mediation. This out-of-court solution brings the parties together under the eye of a trained mediation expert who helps the couple compromise and decide on contested issues in a series of tightly controlled meetings.

Court: The time in court depends on the couple; it might be over in a minute for an uncontested divorce or it might be just the beginning of a long process in other cases. Each side will have a turn at pleading their case and then the judge will make a ruling on each issue.

The Final Decree: When all issues are resolved the judge issues the final verdict separating the parties from their legal ties. Far from being a single sheet of paper, the final decree consists of all orders associated with minor children, spousal support, Qualified Domestic Relations Orders and more.

Speak to your divorce attorney or visit a site like to learn more.