Most couples don’t see themselves going through a divorce at the beginning of their marriage. But after all the effort, time, and love have been exhausted, sometimes, the only possible option to find happiness again is to live separately. If you are painfully struggling with your marriage and divorce seems to be the best-case scenario, here is a short but insightful guide that can help get you through it.
File a Petition
Regardless if both parties agree to have a divorce or it is just a decision of one of them, the first step in this long process is filing for a legal petition that asks the court to terminate the marriage. A petition should include a statement that lets the court know that at least one of you meets your local state’s residency requirement. The residency requirement states the length of time or years that you and your spouse have lived in that particular state. If you can not meet the requirement, there is a chance that your petition will be dismissed.
Another important factor is the reason or grounds on which you are basing your petition. There are many reasons why couples choose to legally separate. Some of the most common are:
- Cheating or adultery
- Mental incapacity
- Criminal conviction
- Irreconcilable differences
- Fraud or force in obtaining the marriage
- Physical and mental abuse
- Substance abuse
The petition should also include the name of you and your spouse, your children, and any separate or conjugal property that needs to be declared. There are also other statutory requirements depending on which state you are in.
Serving the Divorce Petition
The next step is to serve the petition to the other spouse. This part of the process is referred to as the “service of the process” and is required before a judge can hear the case. If both parties immediately agree to the divorce, the only thing to be done is sign an acknowledgment of receipt of the service. If you are having a hard time convincing or locating your spouse, you need to enlist the service of a professional process server.
Once the divorce paper has been served, it also sets in motion an automatic restraining order on the other spouse. It also sets the date of the separation. During this phase, not one of you is permitted to take any of your children outside your state and sell any property.
Answering the Divorce Petition
One vital part of the divorce is the chance of the other spouse to submit a response after the petition has been served. Generally speaking, the answer is a chance for the respondent to ask for legal aid and explain their side. It is also a form of acknowledgment that they have received the divorce papers.
The papers sent to your spouse indicate a specific time frame on which they are allowed to file a response. Usually, the answer is valid as long as it is filed within 20 days from when the papers were served.
When it comes to what type of answer is needed, the requirement varies from state to state. There are some instances when the respondent only needs to send a simple letter that states the receipt of the petition. At this point, it is best to consult with a divorce attorney when handling this part of the divorce process.
Divorce trials are held in formal trial courts. It is the phase where you and your divorce lawyer will present the case. During this time, the judge will hear both sides of the story and make the necessary decision concerning spousal support, child custody, and property division. The process of the entire divorce trial is as follows:
- Presentation of the Petitioner – The petitioner or the spouse who filed for divorce should present the case to a judge. The presentation includes details, such as things pertinent to the marriage, children, finances, properties, and assets.
- Presentation of the Respondent – The responding spouse will present their answer to the judge
- The Appearance of Witness – Each spouse is entitled to present a witness that will stand on their behalf. Witnesses can be co-workers, neighbors, family members, and anyone close to both spouses. Children can also stand witnesses, as well as daycare instructors, nannies or house help, and teachers. The main duty of the witness is to vouch for each of the spouse’s shortcomings and capabilities.
- Rebuttal of the Petitioner – The petitioner is given a brief chance to rebut the other party’s response.
- Closing Arguments – Once both parties have presented the statement of their witnesses and relevant documents, the next step involves the lawyers’ closing statements. They will summarize all the evidence that has been presented to the judge during the whole trial.
Dealing with the Aftermath
The only thing left after the divorce has been finalized is to move on. Some newly divorced individuals that don’t have children find it a bit easier to pick up their lives and continue.
However, things are different if you have kids. The whole divorce and custody battle takes a toll not just on you but also on your entire family. The effects of separation on children vary with every situation. Some kids handle it perfectly well, while others often feel extremely sad, neglected, and abandoned.
You can always ask for help from professionals to guide you and your child to navigate the new dynamics. Other things that you can do is to divert your kid’s attention by enrolling them in extracurricular activities, such as sports, music, arts, and dancing classes. Whichever you choose, remember that you can help your child cope by spending more quality time and assuring them that both parents still love them.
The end of what once was a beautiful thing will always be painful. This is not an easy process. As you go, not only you and your partner will be affected but also your entire family. Divorce may be the end of your marriage, but it also signals a new beginning. Keep your mind and heart strong, and may you find happiness in this new chapter of your life.