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Navigating the Divorce Process: Before, During, and After

two people with hands crossed in front of a contract and wedding rings

Divorce is a last resort for couples who are going through serious problems in their marriage. If you and your spouse are concerned that you cannot work through your differences, you might be considering parting ways. Divorce is a lengthy, complicated, and permanent process, though, so you should be certain it is the right decision before you file the paperwork.

Understanding what happens before, during, and after a divorce can help you determine whether or not this is the right path for you and your ​spouse. The following is an overview of what you can expect from the proceedings:

Before Divorce: Filing the Petition

At least one person in the marriage has likely been considering filing for divorce for a long time before you take any concrete steps. You've probably tried other options for healing your marriage, and you may have been separated for a few months. Emotionally, you and your spouse may already be grieving the loss of your partnership, or you might have already moved on.

In the eyes of the law, though, nothing happens until you file the divorce petition. This is a legal document requesting that the court terminate your marriage. You'll need to include a legal reason for divorce for the petition to be approved. Many couples cite "irreconcilable differences" as their reason, but other reasons include adultery, domestic violence, imprisonment, and a number of other issues.

Most states have residency requirements that at least one spouse must meet for the divorce petition to be approved. These requirements vary by state, so you should look up the regulations in your area to make sure you're in compliance. In most cases, one spouse has to live in-state for several months before filing, and they must live in the county where they're filing for anywhere from 10 days to six months.

At this point in the process, you should be in touch with a family lawyer. Working with an attorney is critical as they'll make sure you take all the necessary steps to settle as favorably as possible. Even if your divorce is amicable, you should still have support from a lawyer who closely understands how the process works.

During Divorce: Paperwork and Negotiation

After you file your petition, you'll give your spouse a copy of all the relevant paperwork. You'll also need to file proof of service, which informs the court that you've met the requirements for providing your spouse with a copy of your divorce petition.

If you and your spouse both agree on the divorce, signing the paperwork should be fairly straightforward. If your spouse wants to remain married or lengthen the process, they might avoid signing the papers. In this case, you can hire a professional to deliver the documents.

At this point, you and your spouse will have to negotiate a settlement. You'll decide how you'll split up your property and assets, and if you have children, you'll make a custody agreement. Many couples go through mediation, and working with a third party can make the process much easier.

If you and your spouse cannot come to an agreement, your divorce may need to go to trial. This happens most often when two partners disagree on custody. A divorce trial is lengthy and stressful, so your attorney will do everything in their power to avoid it. However, if necessary, the judge will decide on the settlement between you and your spouse.

After Divorce: Finalizing and Honoring the Agreement

Once the agreement is complete, the judge will sign the judgment of divorce. This officially ends the marriage and explains how you and your spouse will arrange custody and split your assets.

Adjusting to life after your divorce can be difficult. Because divorce proceedings can take several months, some people feel emotionally recovered from the experience before the judge has signed the agreement. Others take longer to move on from their marriage. If you and your ex-spouse have children, you'll make continued arrangements for custody or visitation. Staying on good terms with your ex can make the experience much easier for yourself and your children, and it can help you avoid problems in the future.

A struggling marriage isn't easy to navigate, and neither is divorce. If these steps sound overwhelming, it might be a sign that you should try other options, such as counseling, first. If divorce feels like your only recourse, it's important that you work with a trusted professional from beginning to end. Your divorce attorney will handle the legal proceedings so that you can focus on healing from such a difficult experience.

If you have any questions or concerns about the legal aspects of divorce, the attorneys at DeTommaso Law Group, LLC are happy to help. Reach out to us today to learn more about our services.