August 31 2019 - You know you've been having problems with your spouse: arguments and a feeling of distance between you are common. Maybe things have been this way for a while. And yet, it still comes as a surprise to many people when their spouse decides to make the serious move of filing for a divorce.
It can be a surprising and upsetting moment that can turn your life upside down, despite how common it can be. It can be difficult to know what to do next, both in an emotional and legal sense. Divorce papers are the official start of a long and potentially strenuous legal process.
If your spouse wants to file for divorce, it can be helpful for both of you to understand what the next steps entail. Read on, and we'll walk you through everything you need to know.
Understanding The Divorce Process
You may have known that divorce has been on the table for months, or you may have been blindsided by your spouse's decision. If it's the latter, you might not even know what the divorce process involves or what it will require of you.
The first thing that you should know is that there is no legal difference or right when it comes to the person who filed versus the person who was served. Your spouse will not have the 'upper hand' in the divorce proceedings just because they took the initial legal action.
Most states in the modern era allow for no-fault divorce, which means that a spouse does not need an excuse like infidelity to break up a marriage. Instead, it is likely your case will be predicated on the infinitely popular irreconcilable differences complaint.
Once the divorce process begins, your financial business will come under intense scrutiny. Once papers are served, you are forbidden from making major purchases, changing insurance plans, or disposing of any property or assets in which your spouse might have an interest.
The division of finance, property, and family are often the meatiest and most difficult part of a divorce case. These things can be very hard to untangle fairly, and it takes the work of many divorce attorneys to ensure each spouse is getting what they deserve.
What Happens First? And When?
You have the divorce papers in your hand. What is your first move? What do you need to do? Many people feel frozen or paralyzed in this initial moment.
Proper knowledge can help get you moving again. Once you are served, you have a thirty-day window in which to respond by filing a response in court. This often means you'll want to hire an attorney of your own as soon as possible.
In your spouse's divorce papers, there will likely be a petition for the dissolution of marriage, which will break down your spouse's requests for things like child support, custody, and division of property.
In your own filing, you will have to counter with your own opinions on these matters. This can very quickly get ugly or uncomfortable, as you might imagine. Still, it's important that you take the time to work through your spouse's requests with an attorney and come to your own conclusions about what you feel okay and not okay with.
Failure to file a response within a thirty-day window can be very bad for your case. In some situations, your spouse might be able to file for a default resolution and secure all their demand if a response from you isn't on file.
You'll also need to pay a fee for submitting your response to the court.
Divorce In The Court System
After your response is filed, the court will set a date for your main divorce trial. This may be soon or many months down the line. Often, the level of disagreement present between two spouses will determine how much time exists before the appointed court date.
Between this moment and the final court hearing, spouses will need to participate in hearings intended to resolve individual disagreements or prickly situations.
Many states require those in divorce proceedings to attend mediation sessions, which are intended to help couples come to an agreement on certain subjects, such as child custody. In these sessions, a professional and impartial mediator sits in with a couple and attempts to walk them through to a fair conclusion.
You are not required to come to an agreement with your spouse in mediation. You are allowed to stand your ground if you want to when it comes to any element of the divorce agreement.
Once your court date comes around, the judge will sign official papers that will bring the agreed-upon conclusions into legal reality. Custody, division of property, division of debt, and so forth will all be set in stone from here forward.
There are opportunities down the line to change what is legally established on this day. But it can be very difficult and take a lot of legal work.
With these papers signed, the divorce process will officially be over, and the two former partners can go their separate ways.
If Your Spouse Wants To File For Divorce
No one looks forward to the day that their spouse is ready to split. If your partner is ready to file for divorce, it's important you take the time to understand what that process involves. The above information can help ensure you're prepared for the difficult process ahead.
Need more help navigating tricky legal situations? Check out our human resources websites for more help.