7-Step Process To Get A Divorce And A Timeframe

Make an informed decision on various aspects of divorce when considering ending your marriage.

Reviewed by Casey M. Reiter, Esq Casey M. Reiter Casey M. ReiterEsq facebook_iconlinkedin_iconinsta_icon Specialty: Appellate Law (Family and Criminal Defense)Experience: 6 years
Written by Shikha Thakur
Last Updated on

When you fall in love with someone and marry them, you hope to live happily ever after. However, marriage is a long journey, and your union may not always work out well, prompting you to consider divorce. If you want to know how to get a divorce, this post will help. While going through a divorce can be a draining experience, it is imperative to move on from anything that is not meant for you. Read on as we discuss divorce and the various steps involved in it.

Pre-Divorce Process

  • Decide if you really want it

A marriage is a strong bond that binds not only two people but two families. Petty quarrels and differences in opinion among a married couple may not be reasons enough to seek divorce. These matters are common and can be resolved through discussion. If you are still on the fence about divorce, then marriage counseling could be a way out.

  • Choose the best route

There are three ways to get a divorce. First is a collaborative divorce where your attorney and your spouse’s attorney will try to figure things out in a simple manner. This helps to get a quick divorce. The second option is litigation, where you hire attorneys and duke it out till the time a settlement is reached. The third option is the kitchen table option wherein you and your spouse sit and discuss the terms for the split.

  • Hire an attorney

Hire a qualified and experienced attorney to take care of all the legalities and save time. Divorces can be complicated and highly emotional for those involved; having a professional on your side can ease many of the difficulties the divorce process brings. Make sure you hire an attorney you can trust and is knowledgeable, responsive, ethical, and empathetic.

If you are a layman and choose to represent yourself, make sure you learn all the delicate details of the law and the divorce proceedings. Many jurisdictions have divorce self-help forms that can save you time and frustration. But, keep in mind that representing yourself will require that you are especially careful to keep your emotions in check, as you will not have someone running interference on your behalf.

  • Be prepared

If you know someone who has been through a divorce, then they will probably tell you that waiting and being prepared for the expenses helps. The divorce process takes longer than most people assume and is likely to be expensive. Make sure you have the funds and the patience required for it before you file for a divorce.

How To Get A Divorce?

The process will vary depending on the situation of a couple.

Short-term marriages with no children or property involved can be ended quickly as compared to long marriages with children and property involved. In most cases, the following process would work.

Step 1: File the divorce petition

A divorce petition is a legal request to the court to terminate your marriage. An attorney will guide you on how to file a divorce petition, which can be filed either by you, your spouse, or both.

  • In most cases, the process of filing will include a legal reason for the divorce (in most jurisdictions, a simple statement that the marriage is irretrievably broken, or there are irreconcilable differences is sufficient) and a statement that confirms that one spouse meets the residency requirements of the state.
  • You may also need to fulfill any other statutory information requested by the state where the divorce is being filed.
  • Remember that the process will involve paying an attorney’s fee, legal fees such as filing fees, etc. The associated fees can vary depending on several factors, including the state you reside in, how complicated the divorce is, whether there is any property claim or child guardianship involved in the divorce petition, and how aggressively each side pursues its position.

Step 2: Ask for a temporary order

After you have filed for the divorce, you can ask for a temporary order providing various forms of relief while the case is pending, such as temporary spousal support, temporary child support, and temporary exclusive use of the marital home. A temporary relief order awarding exclusive use of the home can be helpful in cases where the couple does not want to live together right from the moment of filing the divorce but disagree on who should move out, or in the unfortunate case of domestic violence.

After an evidentiary hearing, the court will decide the best option for the time being. For instance, if you fear that your spouse can harm you or your children, then the court may ask your spouse not to visit you until the divorce is finalized. Usually, the temporary order stays valid until the divorce is finalized or the court decides otherwise.

Step 3: Serve the spouse and await a response

After you have filed for a divorce, the next step is to share a copy of the paperwork with your spouse through a formal process of having them served. You can deliver the papers to the spouse’s attorney if you know who the spouse’s attorney is and if the spouse’s attorney accepts service.

  • You also need to file proof of service, a document that says you have met the statutory requirement of providing a copy of the divorce petition to your spouse. If you fail to share the necessary documents with your spouse or don’t file proof of service with the court, then the judge will not proceed with your divorce case.
  • Once the paperwork has been delivered, the spouse who has received it needs to file an answer or respond to the petition within a specified time limit.
  • If the receiving spouse (respondent or defendant) fails to respond to the petition during the set time limit, the judge can order a default judgment that can be complicated, unfavorable, and expensive for that spouse to reverse.
  • The responding party can dispute the grounds for the divorce or can dispute the allegations you made in the petition. They are also free to assert disagreements regarding support and custody of children, a property claim, or any other aspect of the divorce.

Step 4: Seek a Settlement

You can seek a settlement with your spouse outside the court before or after you file the formal paperwork. A voluntary settlement will ensure that you don’t battle it out in the court to save money and also speed up the process.

There are two common methods of settlement.

  • The first is a settlement conference where you, your spouse, and both your attorneys will negotiate to reach a mutually acceptable agreement.

Step 5: Financial disclosures

When your divorce is in process, you need to complete a financial affidavit within 45 days of the date of service to the petition. You need to provide the signed sworn affidavit to your spouse within this timeframe. If you have an attorney, your attorney will help you compile the information and complete the affidavit.

You will also need to provide financial documents such as those pertaining to your income (pay slips), tax return information, assets, financial statements, bank statements, credit card statements, and copies of any application for credit (such as mortgage applications), among others.

If you fail to disclose all the vital financial information your spouse or court should know, you may face sanctions in a divorce case.

Step 6: Trial in the court

If all the methods of compromise fail to bring positive results, then you and your spouse will have to battle it in the court. It should be the last option since it involves a lot of time and money for both the couple and the court. At this stage, everything the judge decides is final.

Step 7: The judgment

The judge will dissolve your marriage and will lay the orders for the division of assets and parenting duties (who gets custody of children) and decide the resolution of additional money matters, if any, such as spousal support or child support. A judgment of divorce will be signed by the judge, and you will be legally separated from your spouse.

What Is A Realistic Timeframe For A Divorce?

The timeline depends on factors such as money and property conflicts, custody of children, and the willingness of the parties to agree. The fewer issues in a divorce, the quicker the resolution tends to be. However, even in a fully agreed-upon settlement, some legal formalities are involved that may take time. For instance, a judge may not be able to legally sign off the final paperwork for 30 days after you served your spouse in some jurisdictions. Even so, the simplest way to speed up the process is to ensure you and your spouse agree to everything.

The divorce process is also quick if your spouse fails to respond to the petition at all, as a default decree can be entered. In most cases, the divorce will take a couple of months. In highly contested cases, the process could take longer than a year.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How long do I need to be separated from my husband before divorce?

You need to be separated from your husband for at least 12 months before applying for divorce (1).

2. How do I know it is time for a divorce?

If you notice these signs in your marriage relationship, you may decide it is time for a divorce-

  • Your partner is abusive
  • Your marriage keeps you in distress
  • There is a lack of intimacy in your relationship
  • You don’t respect your spouse anymore
  • You have financial problems in your marriage

Divorce is a major decision in one’s life. The time it takes to finalize a divorce is governed by various factors, including financial and property disputes, child custody, and the willingness of the parties to reach an agreement. The pre-divorce process, submitting the divorce petition, asking for a temporary order, serving the spouse, waiting for a response, and attending the court proceedings are all lengthy processes. So, if you decide to divorce, hire a divorce lawyer to help you understand each step and get through the process quickly.

Key Pointers

  • If you have tried several ways to resolve your differences and finally decided to separate ways, you can opt for a collaborative divorce, mediation, or litigation.
  • You need to file a petition in the court and may need to disclose all the vital financial information during the process.
  • The timeline for getting a divorce depends on factors such as money and property conflicts and custody of children.


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Casey M. Reiter
Casey M. Reiter is an appellate and litigation support attorney practicing in Florida for over 6 years. Her focus areas are Family and Marital Law and criminal defense-related appeals. She also works as a professor, teaching Family Law, Criminal Law, Legal Writing & Research, Civil Procedure, Tort Law, Business Law, and Real Estate Law.

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