Getting a divorce is a huge decision. But most people know deep in their heart when the time is right, when you have irreconcilable differences, when there has been too many grievances to repair trust or when you just can’t be happy together or get along anymore. Most people are solid on the emotional issues and how to move forward in that sense. But when it comes to the legal sense they are often clueless. Many don’t look into the process at all. They are vulnerable to shady operators. What you are looking for in the legal sense is a Petition for Dissolution. Once a judgment is entered then the divorce is final, but not before. Without that document you aren’t legally divorced. Some not-so-honest lawyers let cases go on and on for years without getting a judgment handed down. So it’s best to know, be informed about the process so that it can move forward as smoothly as possible without wasting time, money and adding more emotional distress than there needs to be. Here are 5 steps to divorcing your husband. The first step, file a petition of dissolution. In the 1970’s no-fault divorce laws came to fruition in many states across the country. Find out what the particular situation is in your state. In no-fault states, either party can file a petition of dissolution for any reason. In states where one spouse has to be at fault, reasons such as infidelity, domestic abuse and others may need to be stated. Most states however are no-fault states. But you definitely need to check. A quick Google search should tell you.
There is generally a charge to file this petition. The document will be served to your soon-to-be ex-spouse to notify them of your wish to be divorced from them. It’s a good idea to let your husband know that you’ve filed for a divorce previous to receiving the papers, or else it could be a big shock, make them fly into a rage, or result in some other negative emotional response. After the one person is served with papers, they have 30 days in order to compose and send in a response. If they fail to file, the petitioner or the person who filed for divorce can ask for a default of judgment. The filer should then receive all of the things they asked for in the original petition. There may be exceptions. Make sure you select a divorce lawyer carefully and discuss this with him or her should your husband fail to respond. Now an automatic temporary restraining order (ATRO) will be put into place to prevent one spouse or the other from absconding with the children, selling or cleaning out the couple’s assets and so on as an act of revenge. You are not allowed to take your children out of state at this time. You can’t benefit from any insurance claims at this time. No concealing or transferring property or other assets. Now you’ve completed the first step and are in divorce proceedings. It won’t end until you get a judgment from the court.
It usually takes around six months or so to get a judgment. That said, custody and the splitting of assets are the two main items to be negotiated and settled upon. Will there be spousal support? Who gets the house and how are the assets to be allocated? Now it’s time for our second step, to get a court date in order to work these issues out, called an “Order to Show Cause” or an OSC. This process is called “pendent lite,” which is Latin meaning, “while the case is pending”. Whatever arrangements met at this time are not permanent, though the longer they stay in place the more likely they will become permanent. You can negotiate with your ex-spouse at any time and reach an agreement during this phase. Both parties should file OSC in order to gain some peace and some space. Now if there has been any physical or emotional abuse you should take part in our third step, filing a domestic abuse restraining order.
Now the fourth step is called the disclosure of finances. Many times in a marriage one party knows much more about the finances than the other. Furthermore, many states assume that even if one spouse has stayed home and hasn’t worked, their contribution through domestic duties and perhaps caring for the children mean that they are entitled to their fair share of the assets. Even if they were total couch potatoes, how the law states it is clear. However, be sure to check on the particulars with your attorney as laws can vary from state to state. Hiding assets will not be looked on favorably by the judge. In fact, he or she may award even more than their fair share in recompense for the deceit. It’s best to disclose everything. Now, once the disclosures are done the settlement negotiation begins. That’s our fifth step. How much will support be? How will property and other assets be allocated? Who gets custody of the children? How will holidays be divvied up? If no settlement can be reached a court date will be required and set. Now you can ask for a stipulated judgment or a marital settlement agreement (MSA). The difference between the two is that one is a judgment handed down by the court; the MSA is an actual contract. If it is breached then you can sue for breach of contract. Finally, you will then receive a Notice of Entry of Judgment which gives you a legal date for when your divorce took place. Once that document is filed you are officially, legally divorced. For more on this, pick up a copy of Getting Divorced Without Ruining Your Life: A Reasoned, Practical Guide to the Legal, Emotional and Financial Ins and Outs of Negotiating a Divorce Settlement by Sam Margulies.