The separation of former Vice President Al Gore and his wife Tipper earlier this week turned many minds in the US to the subject of divorce.
While the rate of divorce in the United States is actually falling — it is at its lowest point since 1970 — there is no doubt that divorce is a common occurrence in the US. The divorce process has become a familiar one to many Americans, whether it is because of their own experiences or simply following the dramatic number of high-profile celebrity divorces.
But all this exposure to the divorce process doesn’t mean people are automatically experts at what to expect during a divorce. What does the divorce process entail?
Common Steps Involved in the Divorce Process
The divorce process varies from state to state based on the state’s particular divorce laws. Each divorce case is different, so each step may not apply.
If the law in your state allows it, some couples starting the divorce process opt for a legal separation. A legal separation allows a couple to be apart, yet protects the interests of both parties and any children involved.
If a legal separation is not allowed in your state, you can find an attorney to assist you with filing for a divorce, then following that up with a request for a temporary separation agreement.
Petition for Divorce
The divorce process begins when you file a document with your local court clerk. This document is known as an “Original Petition for Divorce,” or, in some states, a “Letter of Complaint.” They are basic legal requests for a divorce.
The petition will name both parties involved in the divorce and any children. If you file the petition, you are the “petitioner.” If your spouse files the petition, you are known as the “defendant” or “respondent.”
The petition must also name a reason for the divorce. Most of the time, the reason is “irreconcilable differences” or simply “incompatibility.”
After the petition is on file, the original is served to the respondent. A process server may do this, or simply a member of the local authorities. Once the divorce papers have been served, the respondent has 30 days to find an attorney and respond to the petition.
“Discovery” is the legal term for gathering information about the parties involved in the divorce process. This includes:
- Interrogatories: One party sends the other party a list of questions. The party usually has 30 days to respond to interrogatories.
- Disclosures: Attorneys for both parties in the divorce process request items from the other party. The parties have 30 days to respond.
- Admissions of Fact: A party admits to or denies each fact on a written list composed by the other party and his or her attorney.
- Request for Production: A party asks for documents that may benefit his or her case, such as bank statements or letters.
- Depositions: An attorney takes a sworn testimony from the other party and witnesses. If the divorce process leads to court, anything said in the deposition will likely be used as evidence.
Mediation and Court
Many parties try to come to an agreement through mediation. A court-appointed mediator will work with both you and your spouse to determine child custody, property and any other possessions or responsibilities. If you are lucky and your split is amicable, the divorce process ends here.
If issues are not resolved, a trial date is set. You and your spouse will be able to argue your case before a judge, who will determine the outcome of your divorce case.
If you are displeased by the outcome of the court’s orders, you can file an appeal. In many cases, appeals are denied — the court is looking out for the best for you and especially for your children, if there are any involved.
The professionals at Legal Language Services can assist you in your divorce by providing you with certified, court-ready transcripts of any incriminating audio. You can also find an attorney through Legal Language Services’ FREE directory of legal professionals. A good attorney will help you better understand the divorce process and work with you during this difficult time.