Basic Steps In The Divorce Process
Are you planning to file for divorce? Or, has your spouse already done so? If so, you probably have a number of questions about the legal process ahead. Divorce is never easy, but with experienced and focused legal counsel you can overcome this challenging time in your life.
From my law office in Chesterfield, Missouri, I represent clients across St. Charles County and St. Louis County in a variety of family law matters, drawing on over 30 years of experience to help them resolve their cases efficiently and effectively.
Divorces can proceed in a variety of ways. These steps below form the general basis for the divorce process.
A divorce case officially begins with the filing of a document called a petition and financial forms required by the court. The petition contains information such as your spouse’s name, wedding date, address, children’s names, etc. The petition also states whether you are asking for child custody, child support, maintenance, division of property, attorney’s fees, payment of court costs, restoration of your former name and potentially other items. The person filing the petition is the petitioner.
Once filed, the petition must be served on the other spouse who is known as the respondent. The petition and other documents are “served” on the respondent by a deputy sheriff or process server. In some cases, your spouse or his/her lawyer may sign and file an entry of appearance and waiver of service which takes the place of being served.
Within 30 days of service, the Respondent must file an answer to the statements in the petition. If an answer or other appropriate response is not filed within the time limit, the petitioner may obtain dissolution of marriage as requested in the petition.
Temporary Orders (PDL)
Sometimes temporary orders (pendente lite orders) are granted while the case is pending. Either party can ask the court for temporary orders regarding child custody and visitation, child support, maintenance, attorney’s fees and other matters. These requests may be settled between the parties or the judge may decide the matter after a trial.
Discovery includes methods of receiving information from the other spouse and third parties about the case.
Interrogatories are a list of questions requiring written answers under oath. Requests for production are used to obtain documents from the other spouse. Depositions usually occur in a lawyer’s office where the parties and/or others answer questions under oath before a court reporter.
The respective attorneys discuss the case with the judge or commissioner and advise him or her which matters have been agreed to and which have not. The judge or commissioner often offers suggestions for settling the case without the necessity of having a trial.
If a settlement is reached, final documents including the settlement agreement may be submitted to the court for approval by electronic filing or be set for a hearing. If the court finds that the settlement agreement is fair, it will be approved and a judgment of dissolution will be entered. Settlement agreements can also be known as separation agreements, marital settlement agreements, property settlement agreements and similar terms.
If you and your spouse cannot agree on the issues of custody, child support, property division, payment of debts, maintenance, payment of attorney’s fees and all other matters, the judge or commissioner will set your case for trial.