Divorce is an emotionally taxing and complex legal process that can be overwhelming for those going through it for the first time. While the specific procedures can differ depending on jurisdiction and individual circumstances, there are general steps that most divorce cases follow. This guide aims to provide a clear understanding of the divorce process, so you know what to expect at each stage.

Step 1: Filing the Divorce Petition

The divorce process officially begins when one spouse files a divorce petition with the court. This person is known as the “petitioner,” while the other spouse is the “respondent.” The petition should include:

  • Proof that at least one spouse meets the state’s residency requirements for divorce.
  • The grounds for divorce, whether it’s a fault or no-fault divorce.
  • Additional information as required by your jurisdiction, such as marriage date, plans for child custody, and division of assets.

Step 2: Serving the Divorce Papers

After filing the petition, the next step is to serve the divorce papers to the respondent. This can be done through various methods, including:

  • Personal service by a process server or law enforcement officer.
  • Direct handover, where the respondent signs a Waiver of Service.
  • Alternative methods like mail, if approved by the court.

Once the respondent has been served, the petitioner must file a “Proof of Service” with the court to confirm that the respondent has been notified.

Step 3: Responding to the Petition

The respondent has a specific timeframe to file a response to the divorce petition. Failing to do so could lead to a default judgment, which can be difficult and costly to reverse.

Step 4: Temporary Court Orders

In some cases, waiting for the divorce to finalize may not be practical. Either party can request temporary court orders for issues like child custody, spousal support, and property division. These orders remain in effect until the divorce is finalized.

Step 5: Settlement Negotiations

Before going to trial, both parties usually attempt to negotiate a settlement. This often involves mediation, where a neutral third party helps facilitate discussions. The aim is to agree on matters like property division, child custody, and spousal support.

Step 6: Going to Trial

If settlement negotiations fail, the case proceeds to trial. Here, both parties present their evidence and arguments, and the judge makes the final decisions on all unresolved issues.

Step 7: Finalizing the Divorce

The last step is the issuance of the Final Decree of Divorce, signed by the judge. This document officially ends the marriage and outlines the court’s decisions on child custody, property division, and other matters.


Divorce is a complicated process that involves multiple steps and decisions that can have long-lasting impacts. It’s crucial to consult with experienced family law attorneys to guide you through each stage of the process.

To discuss retaining our firm for your divorce or child custody case, please schedule a consultation with us today.