What are the Steps to Getting a Divorce?

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  • Written By: Brendan McGuigan
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 24 November 2018
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Getting a divorce is never any fun, but for people who know the proper steps and what they are in store for, it can at least be much less painful. The rules for divorce are different from country to country and state to state, but in general, there are a few things individuals want to do once they start considering a divorce and before they begin legal proceedings, and certain best practices to keep during the divorce procedure.

The first step, of course, is making sure that the divorce is necessary. A surprising number of divorces result in reconciliation and remarriage within a year, and given the complications and costs of the divorce process, avoiding it is preferable when possible. Many couples experiencing marital difficulties attempt some sort of marriage counseling, and perhaps a period of trial separation, before pursuing divorce as an option. This is a good first step, although for legal reasons, it should be kept in mind that during a period of trial separation, the couple is still considered married as concerns adulterous acts.


If the couple decides that getting a divorce is the best course of action, the next step is to decide what sort of divorce to pursue. There are two main classes: no fault and fault. A no fault divorce is essentially one in which one or both partners feel that there are irreconcilable differences that make continued marriage undesirable, or an underlying incompatibility between the partners. In most areas, this type of divorce can be filed immediately with no waiting period; in some places, however, a court may require a period of trial separation ranging from a few months to a few years before granting a petition for no fault divorce.

A fault divorce, by contrast, is a divorce in which a partner asks a judge to rule that the other partner is in some way at fault. The fault might include physical or emotional abuse, an inability to perform sexually, incarceration, or adultery. Pursuing a fault divorce may have a number of advantages. In some areas, a no fault divorce requires a period of trial separation first, whereas a fault divorce can be granted immediately. In other areas, a person divorcing a partner who is at fault may be able to receive more alimony or a larger portion of the at-fault partner’s possessions. The downside is that fault divorces are usually quite a bit messier than no fault divorces and may result in “dirty laundry” being aired in court by the defending partner.

Once someone has decided on the type of divorce to pursue, the next step is to talk to an attorney. The person should tell the attorney what he or she is thinking about, what type of divorce he or she would like to pursue, and all other information the lawyer should know, including marital infidelities the individual may have engaged in or other information that may be brought up and used in court proceedings. He or she should not take any actions, such as filing for a divorce, leaving the marital home, or engaging in intercourse with a new partner, without first talking to the attorney about the legal ramifications of these actions. The lawyer will help minimize the messiness and protect his or her client from unnecessary legal risk.

If the divorce goes smoothly, it can be over rather quickly, after a brief court date and the signing of papers. If it gets messy, it can drag on for some time — particularly if one partner is determined to make it last. People considering divorce should rest assured that the system is there to help them, however, and that the marriage will eventually be dissolved.


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Post 6

I have been trying to get divorced. I'm just lost on how to manage this issue. This is my first divorce. The bad thing is that their are kids in the middle. Can anyone tell me how to get this over without spending too much money?

Post 5

A marriage doesn't have to be a miserable arrangement. There are many couples who have been successfully married for years. If your marriage doesn't integrity issues, it is a good idea to keep working at it. It will certainly be worth it. Statistics have shown that.

Post 4

@lmorales - I agree with you wholeheartedly. I also think couples counseling might help as well. Finally, getting a divorce varies from state to state, country to country. Getting a divorce in Texas might be different from getting a divorce in GA, let's say.

Also, there are many free or nearly free ways of going about a do it yourself divorce. However, if you have a lot of property to split or children, I wouldn't recommend it. I think it works best when you have a reasonably uncontested divorce.

Post 3

I could go on forever about things in relation to divorce, but I think the most important thing is to talk to your children about it (if you have them) and not just keep them in the dark.

I was 7 when my parents divorced and understood nothing about what was going on. I don't even think I cried. Divorce lawyers often take children into account as a prize to be won, but please keep your children's feelings in mind as well as your own well-being.

Post 2

@SnowyWinter - That is great! So many people just give up on their marriages and while counseling or couples therapy isn't for everyone, I think that is definitely a good recommendation!

On the other hand, if you know it's over, you shouldn't drag things out and potentially hurt each other or anyone else in the process. Divorce can wind up being bitter and painful.

Post 1

My husband and I were married for 17 years and it seemed as though all we did was argue. I finally told him that I wanted a divorce. He suggested marriage counseling. Against my better judgment, I went. That ended up saving our marriage.

Before signing those papers, I would recommend marriage counseling. It made us look at things with a new perspective. I'm not saying to put up with things such as adultery but if the only problem is constant arguing, there is help out there.

We just celebrated our 20th anniversary.

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