You’re seeing the signs that divorce might be a better option, but you’re not sure what to do. You took your vows and you want to honour them. For better or worse, right? But more and more you find yourself thinking about how you’ll manage life on your own again, both the good and the bad.
Part of the problem is navigating the unknown. What are the steps? How will this affect my family? How much is this going to cost?
“Family law cases where the parents simply agree to 50/50 child custody are sure to save the parents thousands in litigation fees and reduce the time of a divorce from over a year to 6 months or less.” – Canterbury Law Group
While a divorce can be expensive, you have some options to the traditional process of hiring lawyers and fighting it out. If both parties can see the problem, you might be able to find a company that mediates the divorce rather than making it adversarial. David Stein of Liaise Divorce Solutions notes that a mediated solution can cost one-tenth of the usual divorce, so if you can keep things amicable, that can be your best solution.
Whatever the environment, every divorce is going to have five milestones to mark the journey.
1. Legal Separation
This step is probably the most difficult emotionally. You want to avoid a confrontation, but that requires an open admission by you and your spouse that things are not as you’ve been pretending. It’s a difficult first step, but it’s a necessary step when it comes to dividing property. You want to initiate a legal separation to establish a clear dividing line as to when new property and new debts became the sole responsibility of each party.
2. Filing a petition
This is the first step that actually involves the court. Even if both parties agree to the divorce, one is going to have to submit the “Complaint for Dissolution of Marriage.” Each state has a set time period after filing the complaint, usually 60 to 90 days, before you can set a court date.
3. Notifying the spouse
A service will deliver the paperwork notifying the spouse that the complaint has been filed. You have to be able to document to the court that you have served notice to your spouse. If the divorce is uncontested, your spouse can simply agree to the complaint and not respond. What usually delays the proceedings is when the respondent wants to file an answer. Then it will take another 20 or 30 days to set a court date.
4. The Agreement
This is the part that will cause the most conflict. Both spouses are going to agree to the division of property and debt. If children are involved, it’s likely to get even more contentious. It can also be the piece that takes the most time in a contested divorce where animosity or greed becomes a factor.
5. The Trial
This is likely to be the quickest part of the process. It’s not like the television versions with surprise witnesses. The legal system is set up so that a trial is really there to put an official stamp on the decision. By the time a divorce gets into a courtroom, the legal issues have usually been resolved, and the judge is there to make certain that everything is in accordance with the law.
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These five parts alone can cost tens of thousands of dollars. If you add in the costs of custody and other hearings, the price tag will jump quickly. The more amicable you can make the process, the less it will cost you and your family both financially and emotionally. Those costs alone might make mediation an attractive alternative to battling it out through attorneys.