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The Three Stages of Divorce or Legal Separation


The divorce or legal separation process can be so overwhelming that it immobilizes many people.

Yet, if you break the process into the following three basic stages, it can feel a bit more manageable.

Phase One: Completing, Filing and Service of the Initial Paperwork

To start the divorce process, you need to complete and file the initial paperwork. Although the specific paperwork to be completed may vary somewhat, the two main documents that need to be filled out are a Domestic Relations Case Information Sheet and a Petition or a Co-Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, Civil Union, or Legal Separation.

Once this paperwork is completed and signed, you need to file it with the District Court in your county. The cost of filing a Petition as of the writing of this blog is $230.00. Unless you and your spouse are completing the paperwork together as a Co-Petition, you will also need to prepare a Summons for the Court Clerk to sign. Next, you will need to serve your spouse with this initial paperwork so that he/she is aware and has an opportunity to respond to your request for a divorce or legal separation.

Phase Two: Financial Disclosures and the Initial Status Conference

Within 42 days of filing for divorce, you will have an Initial Status Conference (“ISC”). This is not a hearing. Instead this is an opportunity for the Court to meet with the parties, learn more about the issues that are in dispute, and explain the next stages of the divorce process.

If you have children, the Court will require that both parties complete a parenting class. Additionally, the Court will require both parties to complete financial disclosure documents to provide to the other party with information regarding their income, expenses, debts and assets. You will also need to exchange certain financial documents with your spouse.

Phase Three: Working out and Finalizing the Terms of your Divorce

After the ISC, the Court will ask the parties to work out the terms of their divorce or legal separation matter. If the parties are unable to do so on their own, the Court will require the parties to work with a mediator. Mediation is a process where the parties meet with a neutral third-party who helps the party come up with and evaluate options in the hopes of resolving all or some of the issues in their divorce case.

If the parties are unable to resolve their matter in mediation, the Court will require the parties to schedule a Permanent Orders Hearing (Trial). Information regarding a Permanent Orders Hearing will be explained in forthcoming blogs.

Simplifying the Process

Breaking the divorce or legal separation process down into these three phases helps to simplify the process. In the coming weeks, I will discuss each of these phases in more depth to give you a better understanding of what you will need to do in order to successfully handle your own divorce or legal separation case.

Please check back on Wednesday, December 2nd to read my blog on “How to Initiate your Divorce or Legal Separation.”

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