The Divorce Process
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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021
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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.