Anytime a marriage ends in a divorce, it’s a sad moment. No couple exchanges vows with the anticipation of one day splitting up. Yet in 40 to 50 percent of marriages, it happens. And if this is a path you and your spouse are considering, there are some things you should know about the process.
The Lowdown on the Divorce Process
While divorce is fairly common in the United States, it’s not a process that most people are familiar with. And though the complexity of the divorce will depend on factors like the number of years married, children together, assets, business interests, and the circumstances behind the divorce, the process doesn’t have to be as difficult as some think.
With all of that being said, here are several things you should know:
1. It Starts With the Divorce Petition
The very first step is to file a divorce petition. This must happen before the formal divorce process can begin. One spouse is required to file a legal petition asking the court to terminate the marriage. This petition must be served to the other spouse and include the following:
- A statement informing the court that one or both spouses meets the state’s residency requirements for divorce.
- A legal reason/grounds for the divorce.
- Any additional statutory information that your state requires.
Most of this information is pretty self-explanatory. The important thing is that one spouse fills out the petition and serves it to the other before filing it with the court.
2. You Can Ask for Temporary Orders
Waiting months for a divorce to play out isn’t always possible for couples. This is why the courts allow for spouses to request temporary orders on things like child support, child custody, or spousal support.
If you decide that you want a temporary order, the court will schedule a hearing to request information from both spouses. The judge will then grant an order (which remains until the divorce is finalized).
3. Every State is Different
It’s important to note that every state has nuances and requirements regarding residency. In California, for example, Bamieh & De Smeth, PLC notes that one or both spouses must have resided in California for the past six months. Other states may require as much as 12 months.
Then there’s the official grounds for divorce, which also vary between states. Having said that, all states offer couples the option to file what’s known as a “no-fault” divorce.
“No-fault divorce is a streamlined process that allows spouses to file a divorce petition without listing a specific reason or placing blame on either spouse,” AllLaw.com mentions. “If your spouse committed marital misconduct or caused the breakup, some states allow parties to claim ‘fault’ for the divorce, like adultery or neglect.”
Not sure which route to go? Speak with an experienced divorce attorney in your local area to get state-specific guidance on how to proceed.
4. Negotiations Can Be Sticky
The negotiations phase of a divorce is usually the stickiest and most time-consuming. However, if you and your spouse are willing to put some of the emotions to the side and handle it diplomatically, you can try meditation. This is a much faster and more efficient route (for those who can handle it). If mediation isn’t an option, make sure you go into the negotiation process with a clear idea of your “must haves” and your “wants.”
5. Putting it All Together
The biggest piece of advice we can give you is to avoid going into your divorce case expecting to “win.” This isn’t about showing your spouse up or sticking it to them. It’s very rare that a spouse enters into a divorce and gets everything they want. There are always going to be compromised.
If you have kids, it’s especially important that you don’t have a “win or lose” mentality. This divorce is a lot harder on your children than it’ll ever be on you. Keep this in mind and make decisions through their eyes. And, whatever you do, never interfere with your child’s right to have a relationship with their other parent.
Unless there’s a real concern for their health or safety, you shouldn’t interfere. You can certainly fight for custody, but don’t try to completely shut down that relationship. It’s not good for anyone.
The goal isn’t to be victorious. The objective is to detach healthily so that you and your spouse can move on and go in separate directions. If that happens, consider it a success.