Step 1: You and/or your spouse decide that the marriage is over and want a divorce.
Step 2: After you or your spouse speak with a lawyer and realize that divorce is possible, you look at all your options:
• Resolve all divorce issues on your own without assistance from trained professionals;
• Litigate in the court system with a lawyer;
• Arbitrate outside of the court system with a retired judge or lawyer as the decision maker; or
• Mediate your divorce with a neutral third party mediator and have your agreement entered by the Court in the form of a Judgment of Divorce. For more information about mediation, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Step 3: If you choose to litigate with your lawyer through the courts, you or your spouse will first have to file a complaint. In some instances, you may request the court to enter various ex parte orders (orders entered without hearings) to, among other things, restrain the transfer of marital assets, make sure the marital and/or determine temporary custody, support and parenting time issues if minor children are involved.
Step 4: You or your spouse then hire your own lawyer who files an answer to the divorce complaint and may file objections to your ex parte orders obtained in Step 3. That answer may also contain a counterclaim for divorce that your lawyer will have to answer as well. If objections are entered to the ex parte order(s), the court will hold a hearing to resolve the issues.
Step 5: You and your spouse attempt to negotiate a mutually agreeable settlement through your lawyers at the very beginning of your case, without engaging in discovery. This step, however, highly depends on who you have retained as counsel. You will find that there are many lawyers who will want to litigate and keep your case open as long as possible to ensure they “earn” their fees.
Step 6: If a settlement is not reached, you and your spouse exchange discovery requests, which may include interrogatories, document requests, and requests for admissions. It is possible that depositions will also be scheduled, in which case you and your spouse will be questioned (or more like cross-examined) by your spouse’s lawyers. Both parties will also engage in fact finding efforts from third parties. Both parties may also engage in motion practice during this phase. This stage of the litigation can become extremely costly if you do not hire a lawyer who will attempt to minimize the amount of conflict that is generated in the case. However, you may have a spouse who is driven by anger and will, by his or her nature, increase the amount of attorney fees in the case.
Step 7: Late stage mediation may be ordered by the court. If mediation is not successful, a trial date is scheduled and you to start to prepare with your lawyer. You start to realize that this is serious and starting to get expensive. You also may begin wondering whether your divorce should have been resolved through mediation or settled at the start of your case.
Step 8: On the day of your trial, you and your spouse may have another chance to settle your disputes as opposed to litigating them in front of the judge. If settlement is not reached, you and your spouse present your arguments to the judge on all of the issues.
Step 9: During the trial, you testify and are cross-examined on the stand. Your spouse does the same. Other witnesses and experts may also appear and testify. And, after the lawyers make their closing arguments, your future lies totally in the hands of the judge – a decision that you will most likely have to live with for the rest of your life.
Step 10: The judge renders a decision on all issues presented to it for resolution and a Judgment of Divorce is entered. You are now finally divorced and may or may not be happy with the outcome.