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How to Get a Divorce

Divorce and Child Custody Attorneys

The best way to get a divorce is to retain an attorney to help you file the appropriate papers for the divorce, especially if the divorce is contested. Even with an attorney, the petitioner and the respondent will have quite a bit of work to do on the divorce:

  1. File a petition for dissolution of marriage. If you have an attorney, he or she will request specific information that must be included in the petition. File the petition with the family law clerk of court (or civil clerk of court, depending on your state). The clerk will then stamp the summons. The clerk will give you back one of the copies of the petition, along with the summons. Contact a process server or the sheriff to have him or her serve the petition on your spouse.
  2. Once the respondent is served, he or she will have a certain number of days to file a responsive pleading. A responsive pleading is usually an answer to the petition, and a counter petition is generally filed with or shortly thereafter the answer. If the respondent does not agree with the action of getting a divorce he or she may file a motion to dismiss or other responsive motion.
  3. Start putting together the documents for mandatory disclosure. Mandatory disclosure includes all of the documentation regarding assets and liabilities. This includes, but is not limited to, bank account statements, check book registers, credit card statements, mortgages, leases, retirement account and stock account statements and vehicle registrations.
  4. Complete a family law financial affidavit. The financial affidavit is a requirement. It provides the court and the opposing party with financial information on assets, liabilities, monthly expenses and monthly income.
  5. Once the financial affidavit is completed and all documents have been gathered for mandatory disclosure, the information will be filed in court and provided to opposing counsel pursuant to local rules or state statute.
  6. If the county and/or state require mediation, the parties must attend mediation. If the county and/or state do not require mediation, it is a good idea to attend mediation to attempt to resolve all issues. When all issues are resolved, the parties can attend an uncontested final hearing. If the issues are not resolved, or are partially resolved, the parties must attend a final hearing (trial) on the unsolved issues.

Often when you get a divorce, there are things that go on during the pendency of the divorce—child custody and visitation battles, one spouse may use marital funds or hide assets. These “mini-battles” are usually heard in separate hearings during the pendency of the divorce and usually result in a temporary order by the court (unless the requesting party requires a permanent order). At the final hearing, the issues are still heard and become final with the final order of the court.


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