Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

Full Bio →

Written by

UPDATED: Sep 3, 2020

Advertiser Disclosure

It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right legal decisions.

We strive to help you make confident insurance and legal decisions. Finding trusted and reliable insurance quotes and legal advice should be easy. This doesn’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own.

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about legal topics and insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything legal and insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by experts.

If you have decided to get a divorce, you may be wondering how it all works.

You have a couple of different options when starting the process. You can hire an attorney or represent yourself. Many courthouses have self-help centers or paperwork designed to help people who are representing themselves instead of hiring an attorney.

First, you must file a complaint. The complaint gives the court the right to hear the case. It also tells the court why you, the plaintiff, want to be divorced and what you want to happen in the divorce. Once you file the complaint, you then must make sure that your spouse is served with a copy of the paperwork – normally by having a select individual personally hand your spouse a copy of the complaint and summons or having it delivered by certified mail.

Once your spouse is served, they can file an answer and counterclaim responding to what you have presented in your complaint, which will tell the court what they would like.

Then the case progresses to a Temporary Orders hearing in which the court will make orders regarding possession of the marital residence, custody, child support, and spousal support for the duration of the case.

During the case, you will have the opportunity to go through a discovery process, which means you will be able to ask your spouse for information, documents and receive answers to questions that are relevant to the divorce complaint.

Throughout this process, you are free to reach agreements with your spouse which can then be submitted to the court. If you do not reach agreement, the case will end with a trial in which both sides have a chance to present evidence, call witnesses, and prove what they claim.

The entire process can take anywhere from a few weeks to more than a year, depending on how much you and your spouse disagree on things.