The Divorce Process

Most states are a “no-fault” divorce state whereas the state calls the divorce a “dissolution of marriage” and the person filing simply states that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” The courts may consider fault-based arguments for purposes of dividing property or awarding spousal support, but it’s not likely.  Also keep in mind that the Courts will typically require residency for 90 days in your respective state.

Filing.  Two options here:

1)   Hire an attorney to do it for you.

2)   Self file.  This is a relatively easy process.  Merely print out the forms found on your county court system website, pay the respective fee (typically in the $200 range) and submit the paperwork.  It’s much easier if you and your spouse submit the paperwork together so that the clerk can notarize your signatures at the same time.  Otherwise you’ll need to have your spouse served with the paperwork.  Ensure you have key pieces of info like SSNs, dates of birth, mailing addresses, etc. when you file. 

Initial Status Conference

Within about a month of filing for divorce, you and your spouses and your lawyers (if you have them) meet with a judge or Court representative for an "Initial Status Conference." The Initial Status Conference is an informal meeting held outside the courtroom to give the two sides an opportunity to identify the major issues in the case and help the court understand if this will be a contested case or a relatively quick paperwork exercise.  Here, the court also sets important dates and hears requests from both sides for temporary orders for child and spousal support while the case is pending.  Don’t worry about having all your forms completed prior to the initial status conference as the Court will specify exactly what’s needed and when.  Also, I’d suggest that there’s limited value in paying for attorney representation at the initial status conference.

Financial Disclosure

This is what it sounds like, the full disclosure of both (yours and your spouses) of your bank accounts, retirement information, monthly expenses, debts and all assets. Not fun but a necessary process.  You can download worksheets here: (same software that attorney’s use).

Couple notes:

-       don’t fudge the numbers as it can come back to haunt you.

-       Keep cash on hand to help with emergencies

-       Build a process around updating your financial statements as you’ll likely need to do this multiple times

Temporary Orders

Because divorce proceedings can go on for many months or even years, it’s typically necessary to set up temporary financial support for a spouse the children. In most cases, the temporary orders will stay in effect until the case is settled or goes to trial.

Permanent Orders

If you and your spouse can’t agree, your case will go on to a trial or permanent orders hearing.  As you can imagine divorce trials can be lengthy, nightmarish and ridiculously expensive, so it’s usually in your best interest to work out your differences via mediation or agreement.