Beginning Divorce Process: Petition for Dissolution of Marriage

What are the steps to divorce? A divorce begins with a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. This document must contain certain information, such as jurisdictional information about where the parties have lived and for what duration to ensure the case has been filed in the proper state and county. The Petition also sets for the Petitioner’s requests, or what they want. In addition to the Petition, there are several other documents that must be filed as well, but the Petition is the primary document. The party to file first is the Petitioner and the other party becomes the Respondent.

What Happens after a Divorce Petition is Filed?

Once the Petition is filed and the divorce filing fee is paid, then the Petition and the other initial documents must be “served” on the Respondent. Anyone over 18 years of age, who are not a party to the case and not the lawyer personally handling the paperwork can serve the Respondent. That person then signs an “Affidavit of Service” swearing under oath that they gave the paperwork to the Respondent on a certain date and time. The affidavit is then filed in with the court. This way the court will be assured that the Respondent is aware of the lawsuit. The Respondent will have 30 days to file a response, otherwise known as an Answer.

The Divorce Settlement Process

After the Respondent responds to the petition, the parties usually engage in an exchange of “discovery”, which is a period of information gathering. This process can be quick if the parties do not have many assets or debts or it can be very lengthy if the assets and debts are more complicated or extensive. After the divorce discovery process, often one party or the other makes an offer of settlement and settlement discussions take place. If the parties are able to reach an agreement, then one of the parites’ attorneys prepares the final paperwork known as the General Judgment, which will be signed by both parties his and her attorneys and then submitted to the court for approval and signature. If the parties reach a settlement it is generally not required that the parties personally appear before a Judge.

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