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What Happens In A Divorce?


Divorce marks a pivotal moment in an individual’s life, entailing a legal process that dissolves the marital union between two people. It involves several stages, from the initial filing to the final decree, impacting emotional well-being, finances, and familial relationships. Understanding what happens in a divorce can help individuals navigate this challenging time with better preparedness and clarity.

Initial Filing

The divorce process begins when one spouse (the petitioner) files legal paperwork to request a divorce, usually in the state where they reside. This initial document, known as a petition or complaint, outlines the grounds for divorce. Grounds can be “fault-based,” such as adultery or abuse, or “no-fault,” meaning the couple acknowledges irreconcilable differences without placing blame on either party. Upon filing, the petition must be served to the other spouse (the respondent), notifying them of the divorce proceedings.

Response And Negotiations

After receiving the divorce petition, the respondent has a specific period to file a response. This response can agree to the terms or contest aspects of the divorce, such as child custody, support, or division of assets. If the divorce is contested, both parties may enter a period of negotiations, often with the assistance of their attorneys, to reach a settlement agreement on these issues. This stage may involve mediation, where a neutral third party helps the couple find mutually agreeable solutions.

Discovery Phase

The discovery phase allows both spouses to obtain detailed information from each other regarding assets, debts, income, and expenses. This phase is crucial for accurately dividing marital property, determining spousal and child support, and making informed decisions regarding custody arrangements. Discovery tools include interrogatories (written questions), depositions (oral questioning), and requests for document production.

Temporary Orders

During the divorce process, courts can issue temporary orders to address immediate needs and concerns, such as child custody, child support, spousal support (alimony), and who resides in the marital home. These orders are temporary and only in effect until the divorce is finalized or the court issues new orders.


If negotiations fail and a settlement cannot be reached, the divorce will proceed to trial. At trial, each party presents evidence and arguments for their positions on contested issues. Witnesses, including the spouses, may testify, and documents like financial records and custody evaluations are submitted as evidence. The judge then makes final decisions on all contested issues, which are legally binding.

Final Judgment And Decree

The last step in the divorce process is the final judgment or decree of divorce, which officially dissolves the marriage. This document includes all the terms of the divorce, such as property division, child custody arrangements, child support, and alimony. Once issued, the divorce is final, and both parties must adhere to the terms of the decree or face legal consequences.

Post-Divorce Modifications

After a divorce is finalized, circumstances may change, necessitating modifications to the divorce decree. These modifications can pertain to child custody, visitation schedules, and support payments. To modify a decree, one must typically demonstrate a significant change in circumstances.

Legal Help For Divorce

Divorce is a multifaceted legal process with emotional, financial, and legal implications. It involves several stages, from filing and response to potential trials and the final decree. Understanding what happens during a divorce can empower individuals to make informed decisions and navigate the process with greater resilience. As each divorce is unique, seeking a divorce lawyer from a firm like Robinson & Hadeed can provide personalized guidance tailored to one’s specific situation and needs.