A Divorce Timeline

People who file for divorce generally do not know what to expect. Divorce is a complex process. It can be time consuming and can spring nasty surprises. It is therefore important that you have an understanding of what will happen next. Here is a chronology of events that can help you understand the process. State law will affect the exact process. Please check with your state law.

1. The divorce process starts with one spouse hiring an attorney and preparing a divorce petition or compliant in the family court. The petition will explain the reasons why the filing spouse is seeking a divorce and how she or she intends to settle the various issues associated with the divorce – custody, support, property division.

2. The attorney will file the petition in the court.

3. The petition is served together with the summons on the other spouse according to the laws of the state. The summons calls on the other spouse to respond to the petition.

4. The other spouse has a specified period of time (generally about 3 weeks) to file a response. In the response the other spouse can either agree with the petition or disagree, if the other spouse does not file a response, the court will assume that the he or she agrees with the contents of the petition. In the response the other spouse must indicate how he or she wants to settle the various issues of the divorce.

5. The spouses then exchange information and documents related to their respective income and property. This information will assist the court decide on the various issues of the divorce. The spouses can mutually resolve the issues through mediation or negotiation. In some states divorcing couples must attempt to resolve the issues through mediation.

6. If the spouses reach an agreement and settle the issues mutually, an agreement listing the terms of the settlement is submitted to the court. The judge will ask the parties a few questions to determine that the parties are aware of the terms and have not signed the agreement under pressure.

7. Once the judge finds everything to be in order, the judge will approve the agreement and the agreement will form part of the divorce decree. If the judge rejects the agreement or the spouses cannot reach an agreement, the case will go to trial.

8. During trial, both spouses will put forth their arguments and produce evidence in support of their arguments. Each spouse can challenge the evidence of the other. Once the arguments are complete, the judge will review the arguments and evidence before the court and then pass an order for divorce.

9. Either or both spouse can file an appeal against the trial court’s judgment but in a divorce case, it is highly unlikely that the appeal court will set aside the judgment. Settlement agreements cannot be generally appealed against if the spouses accepted the settlement terms.

It is not possible to predict the exact duration of a divorce proceeding. It can take a few months or last several years. If the couple is able to resolve the issues mutually, it can result in a faster divorce.

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