what to expect in a divorce

What to Expect in a Divorce | Covering the Basics & FAQ

When we marry our best friend, we always hope it means “Til death do us part.” Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. Divorce isn’t the way any marrying couple sees things ending, but for a variety of reasons, some people need to separate from their spouses and move on. Divorce proceedings can seem overwhelming since most people aren’t well versed in the complicated process, let alone the divorce basics. There are many things to consider from financial assets to pets, separation and property, and if there are kids involved, knowing what to expect in a divorce is important when going into the process. We’ve put together some helpful tips to help you navigate the divorce process.

What to expect in a divorce

Once you and your partner have reached the point that you’re seeking a divorce, things are probably not the most amicable at home. Even if you’re ready to physically part ways, knowing where to start or what next steps to take can seem overwhelming. Here are 10 FAQs that should help get you started, and hopefully guide you through this difficult process.

marriage vs divorce
Divorce isn’t so uncommon, so it’s important you understand the stats! Check out our infographic on marriage vs. divorce. 
  1. How do I file for divorce? – You’ll need to submit a petition or complaint with your local court. The definition of divorce varies from state to state – in some places a divorce is called a dissolution of marriage. Once you’ve filed with your local court system, next steps will be determined by the type of divorce you’re about to move forward with. An uncontested divorce means both parties agree to all terms, requests and demands, and there is no argument or negotiation to be made. That is not usually the case however, so be prepared for more time and paperwork.  Gone are the days when someone could only ask for a divorce was if their spouse had done something to wrong them. Now, a no-fault divorce is possible in every state, meaning a person is able to file for divorce on the grounds that they simply no longer wish to be married to their spouse.
  2. How much does it cost to get a divorce? – While the court-related costs vary from state to state, you can expect anywhere from around $200 to $500 for filing fees. That doesn’t include the cost of an attorney for negotiations, court time, preparing court documents… and if any of the demands are contested, the bill will go up, as you’ll spend time hashing out who gets what. 
  3. How long does it take to get a divorce? – When it comes to knowing what to expect in a divorce, this question sometimes takes the top spot as need-to-know information. Unfortunately there’s no straight answer. Each state has different requirements on mediation, separation, and waiting periods, so it’s best to look into your state’s requirementsbefore starting your process. Some states require no separation period, but some can require partners to live separately for up to 2 years!
  4. Do I need a lawyer? – Even the most amicable of separations can get complicated, especially if you have property or other large financial assets, and even more so if you have children with your partner. In a perfect divorce situation, everyone parts ways and can agree on their personal share in property. This is typically not the case, so it’s usually advised that you seek legal council to ensure you’re going about the divorce the right way.
  5. Child support and alimony, who pays what? – When it comes to financial support after a divorce, there are a few different factors. Alimony is usually left up to the divorcing spouses to work out, and only becomes a court decision if one of the parties happens to contest the petition. In contrast, when it comes to child support, that decision is rarely left to the parents. Even if you and your spouse agree on a set amount, the judge will most likely make his or her own recommendations. There are many factors that play into this decision, so this would explain why it’s not left up to the discretion of the divorcing parties.
  6. Who pays the household debt?– Sometimes when learning what to expect in a divorce, we overlook some of the glaringly obvious hurdles we’ll need to overcome. One of those hurdles is household debt. In many cases, debt is a huge burden to both parties, and in a divorce that debt has to be assigned and handled regardless of the proceedings. Judges typically try to split debt fairly, unless the debt was hidden or nefariously accrued. Sometimes a person who receives more property will be assigned more of the debt load, but really, this is another reason why obtaining a lawyer is a good idea. They can help advocate for you in the event that things get sticky.
  7. Do we both have to want to get a divorce in order to divorce? – If you think you’re the only person in your marriage asking Google “how to get a divorce”, that’s totally fine. Going back to the contested versus uncontestedvs no-fault marriage options, you are no longer required to have been wronged in your marriage to seek out separation or divorce. If you no longer want to be married to someone, you have the right to file for divorce. If your spouse disagrees, it then becomes a contested divorce, and you’ll have to proceed under those terms. 
  8. Will I have to step foot in a courtroom? – At the top of the list of divorce basics is knowing that yes, at some point you’ll have to step foot in a courthouse and sit before a judge. Even if you’re divorce is 100% uncontested, there was no fighting, you were amicable and everyone agreed to all terms, the judge has to make a ruling and make it official. You may not be required to go into an actual courtroom, but you will be required to step foot in a courthouse.
  9. Adultery, will this affect my divorce? – While the behavior of your spouse can give you motivation and help you lay the grounds for whyyou are seeking a divorce, infidelity will not grant you more in your divorce settlement. It’s not the court’s job to mandate the morals of your ex-partner. One thing to keep in mind however, is that infidelity canimpact alimony and spousal support, especially if the infidelity impacted the marriage financially in any way.
  10. I’m afraid I’ll lose everything, what do I do? – Let’s be honest. One of the scariest parts about filing for divorce is the looming fear that you’ll have to start over and your spouse may walk away with everything. Rest assured, that simply isn’t how the divorce process works. Hopefully both parties can agree on the assets and property they would each like to walk away with on agreeable terms. If they can’t come to an agreement, that’s when the courts will step in. It’s important to understand that if you and your spouse cannot come to an agreement, the court is not taking sides and they’re dividing your debt and assets up in a way that is logical and makes sense. It may not be the result you wanted, but it’s in your best interest.
how to get a divorce
No one just “knows” how to get a divorce. These are complicated proceedings and it’s good to know where to get started. 

Divorce is difficult…it will likely be one of the hardest things you go through in your life. The best course of action is to do your research and enter the process as prepared as you can be in order to reduce the stress and turmoil as much as possible. Hopefully you’ll both walk away to find new peace and beginnings in the next chapter. If you need assistance with certified copies of your divorce records for legal documentation, VitalChek can help.

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