The Divorce process - What to expect and are you ready for this?
You've decided it's time to divorce. Now you need to educate yourself about what happens during the divorce process and become prepared to survive.
Divorce is never a pleasant experience. It probably took you months to come to the final realisation that divorce is inevitable. You are probably emotionally drained and want to finalise the divorce as soon as possible to move on with your life.
Once the legal process starts, there is no turning back, and you have to be prepared for the legal process ahead. Everything you have strived for and worked for and planned for your marriage is no longer relevant.
You are now in the legal world of the divorce process. Your life becomes even more stressful. Most people going through a divorce have never been involved in a legal process. All of a sudden you have to deal with divorce lawyers, court appearances, judges, continuances, interrogations, custody and property orders. At first, the process seems to move quickly, and then things can slow down to an agonizing pace.
In fact, this can drag on for months or years! By now you will realize that everything might not go according to plan…you might not be able to move on as quickly as you hoped for. In fact, this might turn into the most stressful journey of your life.
The world of legal litigation is not one to enter into without being prepared. The decision to divorce might be the end of your marriage, but it will certainly be the start of education in family law. You are not ready for the legal process of divorce if you are not emotionally prepared for this process.
Have you thought of the following, for example:
- What do I need to know before I hire a divorce lawyer?
- Should I move out of the marital home?
- How will the court divide our property?
- What is the law regarding custody of our children?
- What is the law regarding child support?
- Can I move to a new place after the divorce?
- Is divorce dispute resolution an option?
If you don’t know the answers to the above questions, you are not ready for the legal process of divorce. You do not want to find yourself in the middle of the divorce process if you are not prepared. Once you come to terms with the fact that divorce in inevitable, you have your emotions under control and you are financially ready to proceed you need to do the following:
Do your research and familiarize yourself with your state’s divorce law. Look at all aspects of divorce. Only then will you understand what is needed and what to expect during the divorce process. You will also learn what you can and cannot expect from a divorce lawyer.
Find out what information and documents you need to get the legal process underway. Try and gather the information and complete these documents before you hire your divorce lawyer. It will speed up the process, and you will feel empowered and prepared.
This could include financial documents like credit card statements, tax returns, bank statements, lists of monthly expenses and a list of assets and debts. This can be an emotional and complicated process, but it will be well worth it in preparing yourself for the process ahead. Armed with this knowledge, and once you have all your paperwork in order, you are ready to hire a divorce lawyer.
Choose a lawyer
Your lawyer is the person who will walk this stressful journey with you and represent your interest in this process. No lawyer will ever be invested in your divorce like you are, but a good lawyer will be invested in his or her legal reputation to provide the best service to the client. You need to be comfortable with your lawyer and be able to trust that your lawyer will represent your interest to the best of his or her ability.
What will happen during the legal process?
Now that you are prepared, you can expect the following to happen in the divorce process. Your lawyer will explain and assist you with each step in the process.
The first step - Filing for Divorce
A divorce usually starts with the filing of an Application for Divorce in the relevant Family court. A copy must be served on the other spouse.
Division of marital property and debt
You can either reach a private agreement on how to divide the property, or you can argue in court and request the court to make a Property Order. The court prefers that you and your ex-spouse reach some agreement on the division of property, but if you can’t the court will decide.
Mediation might also be an option. Joint debts must also be divided – some might be deducted from the amount of property owned by the spouses, and others might be the responsibility of an individual spouse. Your lawyer will advise you on your specific position.
Determining of spousal maintenance
Make sure that you know what you are entitled to regarding the law. Maintenance can be awarded to either the husband or the wife, or the court may consider awarding the spouse who needs maintenance a greater share of the property instead of maintenance.
Parenting Orders or agreements regarding the children
This might be the single most important aspect that you need to agree on in the divorce process. You need to focus on the best interest of the child in considering aspect like where the children will live, how much time they will spend with the other parent, where will they spend holidays, which schools they will attend, medical care, religious training, which parent will make what decisions about the children and so on.
If you and your spouse can’t agree on these issues, the court will make a decision based on the best interest of the child. The court will consider all factors relevant to determine the child’s best interest, including practical considerations, to make a final Parenting Order.
Divorce mediation or Family Dispute resolution involves a process where you and your spouse will sit down with a trained facilitator to work out and resolve conflicts over property, finances, child support and parenting issues. The mediator will assist you in reaching agreements relating to parenting after the divorce and deciding on property division and other financial arrangements.
In parenting issues the court expects a couple to attend mediation before making a Parenting Order. In Property issues, it is preferable, but not mandatory to attend mediation.
The final Divorce Order
This is the final step to legally end the marriage. You are now divorced and can start the process of moving on with your life.
So, are you ready for this?
By now you’ve realized that the world of Divorce and the Family Courts can be a daunting one. The aim of this article is not to dissuade you, but rather to prepare you for what lies ahead if you decide to get a divorce.
It might sound simple enough, but add emotional stress, an angry spouse, unsettled children, lawyers and judges and the process can be completely overwhelming.
You need to understand the emotional, financial and legal aspects of the process before you start the process. Know what to expect, know your legal rights and look after yourself. Ignorance can be expensive, both financially and emotionally.
You didn’t take the decision to get married lightly, don’t decide to get divorce lightly either. Be prepared.