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What Comes Next? Taking Divorce Step By Step

by Theresa Hoffman

Coping with the stress of divorce can be a lot easier if you have a basic understanding of the process from beginning to end. While every divorce is unique, and the process can vary depending on whether or not you have children, divorces do follow a somewhat similar course over time. Sometimes, it's what you don't know that can lead to confusion and fear, so read on for a simple step by step overview of how your own divorce might go.

The Separation

While some couples do decide to reside in the same house for the time being after a divorce decision has been made, the act of parting ways is more of a relationship issue than a physical issue. Many divorcing couples fail to recognize the value of creating a legal separation agreement, which could help resolve many marital issues before your divorce is final. Your agreement could cover child support, spousal support, and other issues that could be "folded" into the eventual divorce decree. This important agreement could also signify the official end of the relationship, which marks a date that each party's debts become their own.

The Petition

Known by various other names, such as the letter of complaint, etc., this document is sometimes the first formal notification of a pending divorce. When you hear of someone "being served" with divorce papers, that is the petition. The person seeking the divorce is named as the petitioner (or plaintiff) and the receiving party is known as the defendant.


Various important issues are addressed using temporary orders, which may cover custody and support.


If you and your spouse are in disagreement about some issues, you may need to take part in this process where attorneys for both sides participate in various information sharing actions. This often includes the disclosures of financial information, questionnaires, admissions and denials of certain facts, and a meeting where parties are questioned under oath as preparation for a trial.


Prior to going to trial, which can be expensive and time-consuming, an attempt should be made to resolve contentious issues using mediation. A professional mediator will meet with you and your spouse to help you work out some compromises and solutions to whatever is preventing you from forming a divorce agreement.


If it cannot be avoided, you will be scheduled to appear in court, where your attorney will present witnesses and you will have your case ruled upon by a judge.

Final decree

When either both parties agree or the judge has made the ruling, the final decree is handed down, dissolving the marriage.

For more information and guidance, talk with an attorney like those at Nichols, Speidel, & Nichols.