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How long will my divorce take from start to finish?

Divorce is a very difficult time for both spouses. Couples can have different types of marital issues. A divorce can be a long legal process, which has its share of surprises and complications. A divorce can also take a few months to finish. Each state has its own laws and statutes about divorce. The following information will guide you through the divorce process:

No-fault Divorce

A no-fault divorce is a legal proceeding. It grants a divorce based on the legal term “irreconcilable differences.” Irreconcilable differences mean that the couple does not want to continue the marriage. It also means that neither couple is at fault for the breakup. Couples can get a no-fault divorce in all 50 states. Some states require couples to live apart for a certain length of time before the divorce.

Fault Divorce

Fault divorces are not as popular as no-fault divorces. This type of divorce can be expensive and time-consuming. A fault divorce is when one spouse blames the other spouse for the breakup of the marriage. Here are some grounds required for a fault divorce:

• Adultery
• Abandonment (required length of time is necessary)
• Physical and emotional pain
• Unable to have sexual contact
• Prison time

Fault Divorce Defenses

There are defenses to fault divorces. But, most courts do not force couples to stay in an unwanted marriage. Here are a few defenses to a fault divorce:

• Participation in misconduct by spouses (connivance)
• Involvement by both spouses in misconduct (recrimination)
• Forgave spouse for wrongdoing (condonation)
• Actions force spouse to do something (provocation)

The Plaintiff’s Complaint

A lawyer files a complaint or petition for the plaintiff (the spouse wanting the divorce) in court. The complaint explains why the spouse wants the divorce. It also provides information about the custody of children. The document explains the financial settlement and other issues.

The Summons and Process of Service

The plaintiff and defendant (the other spouse) are parties in the divorce proceedings. The court serves the complaint and summons on the defendant. A summons requires the defendant to answer the complaint within a certain time. If there is no answer, the court believes that the defendant agrees to the terms of the complaint.

The Defendant’s Answer

The answer tells the court whether the defendant is in agreement with the plaintiff. The defendant either admits or denies each section of the complaint. It also lets the court know how the defendant would like to handle the divorce.

Temporary Hearing

The court schedules a temporary hearing to decide issues of the divorce. A lawyer for the plaintiff or defendant can request the hearing. Here are some of the issues that the temporary hearing resolves:

• Custody of children
• Child support
• Alimony or maintenance
• Residences for the plaintiff and defendant
• Assets and debt
• Domestic violence protection

Discovery

Discovery identifies the assets of the plaintiff and defendant. Both spouses must name all their property, debts, and income. Each spouse has to exchange this information with the other spouse. This is a list of the documents that request this information:

• Written questions called interrogatories
• Requests for relevant documents
• Release of information for third party documents
• Requests for admission of facts
• Deposition to answer questions under oath

Settlement Agreement

The settlement resolves all matters about the divorce. It is a written contract between the spouses. The judge schedules a hearing for the plaintiff and defendant. The court wants to make sure both parties have fair treatment. If everything seems to be in order, the judge approves the settlement agreement.

Trial

If the parties are not able to reach an agreement, the court resolves all divorce issues. The attorneys for both parties present evidence about the divorce matters. Here is some evidence that arises during a divorce trial:

• Both the plaintiff and defendant testifies
• Witnesses testify (family, friends, and neighbors)
• Expert witness testimony
• Documents about marital assets

Divorce Decree

The court issues a divorce decree after the settling of all issues. The divorce decree is a document that lets both parties know that they are no longer married. This document settles all of the following divorce issues:

• Child support
• Spousal support or maintenance
• Child visitation
• Divides martial property, assets, and debts

Divorce is a frustrating time for a couple. There are many marital issues to resolve. If a couple is unable to resolve these issues, both spouses should seek the services of an attorney. Lawyers will be able to help them navigate the procedures and rules of family law.