How to Start the Divorce Process 

If you are confident that your marital relationship is irretrievably broken, you may be ready to begin the divorce process. Divorce can be a scary time in someone’s life since it is a time filled with uncertainty for the present and future. With Divorce Tool Box, our goal is to help with the initial stages of divorce as we offer tips and advice as you consider and move through the divorce process.

Process of Divorce 

Divorce is often defined as the legal dissolution of a marriage and a judge will ultimately declare the marriage bond is legally broken. After the divorce is finalized, both parties are granted their single status and are free to marry again should they desire although some states require a waiting period before remarriage. 

How to Start the Divorce Process

In the United States, divorce is under the jurisdiction of the state rather than the federal government, therefore, the rules vary from state to state. It is important that you consider the necessary regulations in your state.

Divorce Paperwork

First things first – if you are filing pro se by representing yourself without the assistance of a lawyer, you will need to obtain the necessary forms to file for divorce. In most cases, you can find these from your county clerk’s office or the family court division.  If you plan to hire an attorney, he or she will obtain the necessary paperwork needed for your case.  Divorce is usually filed in the state where the person who is filing for the divorce resides.

After completing the divorce forms, it is then necessary to file these with the clerk's office. When filing, be prepared to pay the cost of the filing fee that is usually charged by the court.

In order to maintain organization during this chaotic time, make sure to create duplicate copies of your filed paperwork and personal information that you have gathered needed for documentation.  This information should be kept at your home, office, safe deposit box, or other secure location.  There will be many changes as the divorce process progresses and a copy of pertinent information within quick access is helpful.  You can never be too organized and prepared.

Choosing a Divorce Lawyer

If you have under aged children, you may need a lawyer who specializes in family law.

Divorce involves sharing sensitive and private matters.  If choosing to work with a lawyer, one question to ask yourself is if you would be more comfortable sharing this intimate information with a male or female.  Being comfortable in sharing family information is imperative for a successful outcome. 

The costs of lawyer’s fees vary considerably, so it may be wise to compare prices as well as the professional experience when reviewing lawyers in your area.  It may also be helpful to secure personal recommendations from colleagues, family members and friends when narrowing down your personal choices.  Ensuring that you secure the best professional to represent you is important in order for you to feel comfortable with their legal fees, professional experience and your ability to work closely with them during this process.

Keep in mind that in some cases a lawyer is not necessary. If you and your spouse are willing to work together, securing a mediator to assist in mediation rather than litigation may be a better alternative.  Choosing a mediator could also be less costly than ongoing legal fees.

Types of Divorce

When you file for divorce, you’ll need to specify the grounds on which you are divorcing your spouse, and the type of divorce process you will be entering. 

There are various types of divorce available in the United States and when making the decision as to which you will choose often depends upon your unique situation as well as the level of cooperation between you and your spouse. 

No-fault: Neither spouse is required to prove fault or marital misconduct for the breakdown of the marriage.  It is often considered the most common type of divorce.

At-fault: One spouse blames the other for the breakdown of the marriage. 

Summary: This type of divorce is also referred to as a simple divorce. This type of divorce is usually offered to couples who do not have children, significant assets or liabilities, can agree to the terms of their divorce and file legal papers jointly. This type of divore can easily be accomplished without the aid of a lawyer.

Uncontested: The couple works together to reach their own agreement considering division of marital assets, liabilities, personal property, custody arrangements and other pertinent issues of the children without taking their case to trial.  

Collaborative: This process attempts to work cooperatvely in an attempt for the couple to reach a settlement in order to remain out of court. Each spouse has his own lawyer and diligently works to reach a settlement that is acceptable to both spouses.

Mediated: This is a structured process with a neutral third party referred to as a mediator who will help the couple come to an agreement by communicating and offering suggestions for each unique circumstances. Once finalied, this agreement will be incorporated into their final divorce decree.

 Entering the Divorce Mediation Process 

Mediation is often viewed as the most cooperative and stress reduced approach to divorce. An independent third party will be appointed or in many cases, you can hire your own mediator to help you and your spouse come to an agreement on the various issues that must be decided in your divorce. Once completed, the agreement will be incorporated into your final divorce decree. 

When entering into the mediation process: 

·      When thinking about divorce, you must identify what is important to you to secure your future once the divorce is finalized.  Make a list of these identified topics to discuss during the session. 

·      Be honest about your thoughts and feelings throughout the mediation process. At any time during the process that you feel coerced or intimated the session must stop.  Only when you feel in control of your thoughts, feel as though you are being heard and not being coerced in any means, then begin the mediation process again.  Always feel free to take a break from the stress that often accompanies the decisions made during this process.

·      It is a good idea to anticipate in advance what your spouse may want to discuss and the goals that he or she may have for the session. 

·       Mediation is a great alternative to litigation but if you can’t reach an agreement, it may be necessary to consult a lawyer. If there were any agreements made during the mediation process, this may reduce the time needed with the lawyer thus saving time and money.

Privacy, Mediation, and Divorce

Unlike a court case, the mediation process is absolutely confidential. Everything remains between the spouses and mediator, unless attorneys are also present. The mediator destroys notes taken during the mediation process after the final agreement has been drafted and signed. 

Rulings on Alimony

It may be deemed necessary for one spouse to pay spousal support. Courts have broad discretion when one spouse is ordered to pay alimony and if so, how much they will pay and for how long.  Alimony may be considered if one spouse cannot support themselves and the other spouse can afford to pay the support. This is aimed at protecting the lower or non-earning spouse from any negative financial effects of divorce.  

Many factors are often included when a court awards alimony.  Some of the factors include the length of marriage, the ability of the payer spouse to pay the required alimony and still have means to support himself or herself, the standard of living while married, etc. 

Alimony requirements differ according to each state’s statutes and is often determined on a case by case situation.  You will need to research your state’s statute to determine guideline requirements.

Find out more about the mediation process, topics concerning alimony and other aspects of divorce through our comprehensive divorce advice programs. Because we know no two divorces are alike, we offer two programs: Divorcing with Children and Divorcing without Children.