While there is no obligation to have an attorney in the divorce process, having one on your side can be helpful.
When things don’t always work out in a marriage the spouses have the right to seek a divorce. However, the situation can be complicated with a contested divorce. Understanding the steps can help you navigate the divorce process and make informed decisions. Here is a step-by-step guide on the legal process of a divorce.
Serving The Divorce Petition
The legal process of divorce starts with a divorce petition in the family or divorce court where you live. Whether it is a contested or uncontested divorce, one spouse must file a legal petition to terminate the marriage. The divorce petition is sometimes referred to as a legal complaint.
Some states require the spouses to be separated for a minimum time before they can file for divorce. This is known as the waiting period. Most states require the petition to include a legal reason for divorce and any other statutory information required by the court. Depending on your state, you can file for an at-fault or no-fault divorce. The state of Kansas is a no-fault divorce state, which means the spouse doesn’t have to prove the fault of the other spouse to file for divorce.
When you file for divorce, your spouse needs to be formally informed or notified of the petition. You could hire a process server to request that the sheriff serve your spouse with the divorce document. Even if you don’t know the location of your spouse, you need to make a reasonable effort to notify them.
According to The Bright Family Law Center – Overland Park, KS, once the petition has been served, the spouse has a set time to respond. If there is no response, you can ask the court to grant a default divorce. But in most cases, the spouse does respond. If the couple wants an uncontested divorce, the spouse will agree to all the requests in the petition. If they don’t agree to the terms, then it is a contested divorce. In the response, the spouse can also file a legal counter-complaint against the petitioner (the spouse who filed for divorce).
Temporary Court Orders
After the petition has been submitted and the spouse has responded, the court could schedule a temporary hearing. This most commonly happens when there is a long waiting period before the divorce can be finalized. The objective of the temporary hearing is to address any issues that cannot wait until the divorce is finalized. For example, the spouse may request a restraining order against the other spouse or make a request in matters related to child custody. The temporary court orders typically remain in effect until the divorce proceedings are finalized.
The next step in the divorce process is negotiating a settlement on matters related to the termination of marriage such as division of marital assets, child custody, and spousal support. The court can arrange mediation but it is up to the spouses and their legal counsel to reach a settlement. If no settlement is reached, the divorce process moves to a trial.
Typically, a divorce trial is held before a judge, but in some cases, it can also be held before a jury. In the trial, both sides present their case including any witness or evidence to support their claims for financial support, child custody, property division, and other matters. After hearing the arguments from both sides, the judge or jury renders a verdict to dissolve the marriage and specifies their verdict on all contested matters.
While there is no obligation to have an attorney in the divorce process, having one on your side can be helpful. They can offer expert legal advice on each step of the divorce process. They can also reduce your burden by managing communication with the opposing party and completing the paperwork required for the process. The attorney can also recommend experts who can help you with the valuation of marital assets and understand the tax implications of the divorce.