The Divorce Process
Divorces can be considered as either Standard or Joint. A Standard Divorce is just that – the person filing is the Plaintiff or Petitioner, while the person being filed against is the Defendant or Respondent. Most individuals filing for divorce from their spouse choose this option, and once filed against, the Defendant or Respondent has the option of not responding to the charges. The ball is securely in the Plaintiff’s or Petitioner's court, as he or she can determine how the divorce goes, of course with the help of his or her divorce lawyer if he or she has one. A Joint Divorce, on the other hand, would involve both parties going to Court and expressing their desire to split up. There is no Plaintiff or Defendant, just Husband and Wife. These divorces do often become contentious and are thereby transformed into Standard Divorces, with the rules of such applying going forward.
Whether they may be Standard or Joint, regardless of the grounds, divorces can be Contested or Uncontested. Contested Divorces can be resolved with a mediator's help, otherwise the couple will have to go to trial for resolution. Uncontested Divorces are the exact opposite – husband and wife both agree to the issues brought up. Here is a flowchart describing the usual divorce procedures.
- Couple or Individual Files for Divorce – Any pertinent documents should be attached with the application, such as special arrangements for child support, child custody and/or spousal support.
- Spouse is Served with Divorce Papers – A process server would deliver the papers to the spouse being filed against. This would apply for Standard Divorces, as Joint Divorces involve both parties filing for divorce at the same time and place.
- Spouse/Defendant Has Time to Answer – The "Answer" stage, again, only is applicable for Standard Divorces. This is where the spouse/Defendant is given a certain number of days to file for what is called an Answer – this would be his/her divorce papers and any other documents. The filing of an Answer makes the divorce Contested. Otherwise, it is an Uncontested Divorce, wherein both parties need only wait a period before finalizing the divorce.
- Plaintiff Has Time Days to Reply – The Reply is filed by the Plaintiff within a certain number days of the Answer being filed, and would include any rebuttals or new issues that need to be raised. If the Plaintiff does not furnish a Reply, the process moves on to the fifth stage.
- Case Conference and Discovery – Case Conferences are more of a formality than anything else, because Discovery is where both parties actually discuss pertinent matters such as child support, custody and financial settlements. This could take some time, but not that much if the necessary documents are supplied in a timely manner.
- Filing for Motions – This is an optional stage – a Motion is only filed if there are certain unresolved issues that need speedy resolution.
- Settlement Conference – To avoid a trial, a couple can discuss issues with a Judge in hopes of finally agreeing on terms. If such a conference is successful, the divorce is consummated.