How Do I Begin the Divorce Process?

Once you decide to pursue a divorce, it can be difficult to know where to start and how to begin the process. Divorce can be a challenging undertaking on an emotional, legal, and financial level. If you find yourself in this situation, don’t worry, you are not alone. The first step should always be consulting a skilled, experienced divorce lawyer like the family law experts here at Oxendine Law. Doing so can help clarify your options and determine the best path to proceed with your divorce. While it’s true that no two divorces are exactly alike, we wanted to walk our readers through the common early steps for many divorce proceedings.

Step #1: Legally Separating v. Physically Separating

Often, people believe that legal separation means no longer residing together, but that’s not the actual definition. The legal definition of separation is a cessation of marital relations and intercourse. You do not have to physically move out of the marital residence to be legally separated. Even if you have physically and legally separated, your assets and debts created during this time will still be considered marital and subject to equitable division in the divorce process. This is one reason it’s important to at least get expert advice and education early in the process to learn the best way to navigate separation even if the goal is reunification.

Step #2: Filing a Divorce Petition

Once either spouse decides to proceed with the divorce action they begin the formal divorce proceedings by filing a legal petition asking the court to terminate their marriage. This petition must include a statement which informs the court that at least one spouse meets the state’s residency requirements for divorce, a legal reason (often referred to as “grounds”) for pursuing the divorce, and any other information that the state requires to proceed. The vast majority of divorces are filed as “no-fault divorce” where the divorce petition is filed based upon the parties’ marriage being “irretrievably broken” without any other cause listed as a basis. The grounds for divorce can always be later amended if circumstances warrant.

Step #3: Requesting Temporary Orders

In some cases, there are immediate issues which need to be addressed, such as the children’s schedule, who will reside in the marital residence and pay those expenses, and other temporary considerations that need to be addressed before the Court enters a final order. This is why the court allows either party to request a temporary hearing to address the issues in your case. If a temporary order is requested, the court will hold a hearing and request information from each spouse before deciding how to rule on the request. This process is typically completed quickly and any temporary order granted will remain intact until the court orders otherwise or until the divorce is finalized.

Of course every couple dealing with divorce faces their own unique circumstances but this is a brief overview of the initial routine and should provide a helpful baseline to anyone trying to navigate the early stages of their divorce proceeding. For more information, contact Oxendine Law at (770) 497-8688 today to schedule a meeting in-person, over the phone, or by video conference. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for additional family law tips, news, and more helpful information.