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How Divorce Works

Updated: Nov 22, 2022

There are many decisions to be made when going through a divorce. Understanding the general process will help you make the best decision for your situation.

A divorce is either contested, (you and your spouse don’t agree on the terms), or uncontested (you and your spouse agree on the terms).Though your specific situation may include additional steps, the general process for a contested divorce is as follows.

File Petition Of Divorce

Filing a petition of divorce kicks the process off. You may either hire an attorney to file for you or file the paperwork yourself. To file by yourself you will need to locate these forms, fill them out completely, and deliver them to your county courthouse. The divorce cannot be finalized until 60 days have passed from the date that the petition is filed. Most uncontested divorces take from 90 to 120 days to finalize. If your divorce is contested, it is more likely to take between 6 and 18 months to finalize.

Issue Temporary Order(s) If Necessary

A Temporary Order is issued by the court to settle disputed matters until the divorce is finalized. These disputed matters are often centered around child custody, child support, child visitation, who will stay in the primary residence, and/or who is responsible for paying certain bills during the divorce process. Temporary orders may or may not be required. If they are required, hiring an attorney would be a wise choice, as they will help you through this process.

Discovery of Evidence

If you and your spouse disagree on the terms of the divorce, this is the period in which you and your spouse turn in supporting documents that help prove you are entitled to the terms that are being requested. If you and your spouse agree on the terms, this may not be required.

Settlement Negotiations

If you and your spouse disagree on the terms of the divorce, this is the period in which you and your attorneys attempt to settle outside of court.


Mediation is a process in which you and your spouse meet with an unbiased professional to attempt to work through the conflict points of your divorce agreement. This is normally a therapist, social worker, or a third party attorney outside of the attorneys you and your spouse may have hired. If your situation requires that you go to trial, the judge will require that you and your spouse attend mediation sessions before your case goes to trial.


You would only be required to go to trial if settlement negotiations fail. A vast majority of cases are settled in a bench trial. A bench trial means a judge will determine the outcome. In extremely rare cases, a jury trial may be possible, but it is very unlikely.

If you and your spouse agree on the terms of the divorce (uncontested), the process is fairly straightforward, especially if you are able to hire an attorney. File the petition, submit the terms of the divorce to your attorney, and finalize the divorce. This is a simplified explanation, and an uncontested divorce still cannot be finalized until 60 days after the petition is filed.

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