What happens in a divorce case?

Divorce can be an emotionally and financially trying experience. One of the important things that a lawyer should do for clients is make the process easier. Understanding the process is a step in that direction. This page offers a short overview of what happens.

The type of divorce a couple seeks determines which documents need to be prepared and which steps need to be taken. Divorces begin with one spouse filing a petition for divorce against the other party and ends in a decree of divorce. Some parties may decide to reach agreements on some or all of the issues that arise in a divorce before filing a petition.

Generally speaking, the more issues that can be settled early on – child custody, division of property, family support – the quicker and less costly the divorce will be. Avoiding a lengthy, costly divorce trial is the aim of the collaborative divorce process.

The petition

Divorce starts when one spouse, the petitioner, files the petition for divorce. The petition lays out the grounds for filing the  divorce and the wishes of the petitioner regarding division of assets and debts, and issues relating to children such as child support and custody. An attorney should explain the grounds of divorce to the petitioner while helping to determine the grounds used in the petition and how to best state the outcome the petitioner wishes for the divorce.

Serving the other spouse

Once the petition is filed, it is then served upon the other spouse, or respondent, who has 20 days to respond. If the respondent agrees with the requests stated by the petitioner, he or she can simply sign the divorce papers and return them to the court. If the respondent does not agree with the terms set out in the petition, an answer must be filed that lays out any proposed changes or counter offers. Finally, if a respondent refuses to take action or ignores the petition, a court can grant a default, which awards all the requests of the petitioner.

When you are served with a petition for divorce, it is important to speak with a trusted attorney so you can file a timely response and avoid a default verdict being entered against you.

Finalizing the divorce

The law in Alabama requires the parties to wait at least 30 days after the petition is filed before a divorce can be finalized. After the waiting period, a judge reviews the submitted documents and makes a decision. The document finalizing a divorce is called a decree of dissolution of marriage. This document officially terminates the marriage.

If you are considering filing for divorce and do not know where to start, or have been served with a divorce petition, speak to an attorney for legal advice. If you’ve already consulted with Jake Watson, he looks forward to helping you handle your divorce as effectively as he can.

See his Divorce and Family Law page for more on his legal services.

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