The Common Steps of a Divorce

The Common Steps of a Divorce

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A divorce is a stressful, emotionally overwhelming experience that is often the only solution to resolve unhappiness in a marriage. If you’re considering a divorce, you might not know what the process is like. State divorce laws determine which specific steps you must take during the process, but there are some general, common that occur in most divorces.

Legal separation

In Utah, you are married until a court decides otherwise. However, some states allow couples to separate legally when one spouse leaves the residence. After this happens, your attorney will petition the courts for a separation agreement. This protects the interests of both spouses and any children of the marriage, ensuring that both parties meet legal responsibilities to each other. If you can’t file for legal separation, you need to contact your attorney or file a petition to request a hearing for a temporary separation agreement. This can be achieved by filing a petition for divorce.

Original Petition for Divorce

To start the divorce process, a document called “Original Petition for Divorce” is filed with a local court clerk. This is a request for the court to grant a divorce and list any relief the filing party feels they deserve. The original petition identifies the parties and any children they might have. The filing party must state a reason as part of the letter. This is typically “irreconcilable differences” or “incompatibility.” The person who files is named the petitioner, while the other is the respondent or defendant. Once the respondent has been served, they have 30 days to hire an attorney and respond to the original petition. This is the point where either party can ask for restraining orders, protective orders or temporary orders related to child support and alimony.

Temporary Divorce Order

A court can issue temporary orders that outline specific actions that must take place immediately and last until the final hearing. Topics covered in temporary orders include child support, spousal support and child custody. These are legally binding and if you don’t find them you will find yourself in contempt of court. When found in contempt, you can be jailed or fined according to the discretion of the judge.

Divorce Discovery

Discovery is a legal mechanism designed to gather information about either party in the divorce. There are five steps to this process, and you can read about them here:


During a deposition, attorneys take sworn testimony from the opposing party and any involved witnesses. Anything said during the deposition can be used in court if an agreement isn’t met and you end up in divorce court. In lucky cases, this is as far as you have to go. During divorce mediation, both parties and their respective attorneys discuss any conflicts and come to an agreement that meets the needs of both parties.

Divorce Court

When mediation doesn’t work and there are unresolved issues, a trial date will be set. During the trial, both parties must argue their case before a judge. It’s essential to discuss the trial with your attorney so you make a good impression on the judge. Never go into court looking disheveled or behaving like a bully. The judge will examine all evidence and make a decision based on what he or she feels is a proper divorce settlement.


After the judge makes a decision, the parties will sign the final decree of divorce. This document states how marital property will be divided, orders pertaining to custody of children, child support and any spousal maintenance that is ordered. Always carefully read the wording of the final decree and make any changes before you sign it.

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