At Whittemore Law Firm, we help our clients understand every step of the divorce process. We work to resolve their issues in the least acrimonious way possible, particularly when children are involved.
The Petitioner and the Respondent
The process begins when one party, known as the petitioner, files a petition with the court requesting a divorce. The petition states the grounds for divorce and what orders the petitioner is requesting from the court relating to child custody and support, spousal support, property division, and other matters relevant to the divorce.
The petition must be personally served on the other party, who is known as the respondent, or the other party can waive service. The respondent then files a response to the petition by a specified date. Respondents can either file a simple answer or file a counterpetition to make their own claims.
Temporary Orders and Discovery
Shortly after the petition is filed and the Respondent answers, the parties can agree to or the court will make temporary orders regarding the use of property during the divorce process and orders related to the minor children. These Temporary Orders will be in effect until the divorce is resolved and the Final Decree of Divorce is signed by the court.
In order to come to resolution for the divorce, the parties must identify and value all assets owned by either party and list all debts. Gathering this information is known as the “discovery period”. After the parties have exchanged this information, the parties and attorneys work to resolve the case.
Settlement Agreements OR Court Trial
The term “settlement,” when used in reference to the divorce process, means the petitioner and respondent have worked together with their attorneys to resolve all issues in their divorce case and present their agreement to the court. If the court approves it, it becomes the final order of the court in the Final Divorce Decree.
Settlements can come about in several different ways:
- Negotiation. The parties can simply agree to terms between themselves for the Divorce Decree.
- Informal Settlement Conference. The attorneys for each party can meet with their clients in an informal settlement conference where they all work to come up with an agreement. This may take several sessions and the parties sign an Informal Settlement Agreement.
- Mediation. A neutral mediator meets with the parties, sometimes in different rooms, and assists the parties in reaching an agreement. The parties sign a Mediated Settlement Agreement.
- Collaborative Divorce: At the beginning of the divorce process, the parties commit to work together until they can come to an agreement on all of their issues without going to court.
If none of these options for agreement work to resolve the case, the parties present their evidence in court at a trial. The judge will make orders regarding all issues not agreed upon by the parties that will be written in the Final Divorce Decree.