Understanding the Divorce Process
The divorce process, or dissolution of a marriage, is initiated when one spouse is notified of the other spouse’s intention to seek a divorce. In most states, the formal method of notifying a spouse of an impending divorce is to furnish the other party with a Summons and Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.
The Petition is a document that describes the types of arrangements a spouse is seeking from the divorce. Property division, child custody, support and alimony are all issues that are set forth in a petition for divorce. The summons accompanying the petition is a document that informs the responding spouse that they must respond to the petition within a specified amount of time. Summons and petitions for dissolution are delivered by professional process services in most cases. Both the summons and the petition serve as formal notification that a spouse intends to proceed with a divorce process.
Most divorces take place in the county where one or both spouses reside and the Summons and Petition must be filed with the proper court jurisdiction in that county. Most states have a six month minimum residency requirement that must be met prior to filing for divorce. Very few divorces (less than 2%) end in a court trial, with most being resolved through prior mutual agreement between spouses.
A formal permanent agreement, or Marital Termination Agreement, details the issues of the divorce and states all of the agreements in writing. The document is not complete or binding until it has been approved in a final divorce decree. When the divorce decree is signed by a judge it finalizes the terms of the Marital Termination Agreement in court. A case will proceed to a full court trial only if an agreement cannot be reached. The divorce decree is the last step in the divorce process.
Going through a divorce is almost always a difficult process. Even in the best circumstances, making important decisions about a divorce can be very stressful. Here are some tips to make the divorce process a bit easier:
* Be flexible and cooperate as much as possible with your spouse.
* Don’t bring your children to court or to meetings with your divorce attorney.
* Don’t make big changes in your lifestyle or move out of state until your divorce is final.
* Don’t criticize your spouse in front of the children or use them as messengers to deliver information.
* Fully disclose your assets and property, hiding property can be considered contempt of court.
* Do not violate child custody or visitation orders unless you want to end up back in court.
* Avoid negative confrontations when dropping off or picking up children and any other times your spouse is present.
* Reassure children they are not responsible for the divorce and are not being abandoned.
* Tell your children the truth. You are not perfect and if you make a mistake, acknowledge it.