Common Divorce Procedures

There are many factors that will determine the exact procedure you and your soon to be ex will need to follow. For example, a divorce for a couple who has only been married for a few years and does not have children or own property together, will likely be a much less involved and a shorter process compared to a divorce that is dissolving a marriage of a few decades or more and/or one where the couple has accrued significant property and/or debt. A divorce also tends to be quicker, easier and less costly, if both parties want and agree to one. When one party does not want the divorce, or was not expecting it, etc., this can delay and prolong the divorce proceedings. When a couple can come to agreements and compromises on their own, it often helps to cut down on lawyer and court costs, as well as speeding up the divorce process.

The following are some of the steps people undergo during the basic procedures for getting a divorce. Different circumstances will require fewer steps than those mentioned here while other circumstances will require much more than what is mentioned here. A divorce lawyer who is licensed to practice in the state you live in, can give legal advice about divorce procedures and how they pertain to your particular situation.

File a Petition

The first step in all divorces is to file a petition that states the grounds for the divorce. Most states have provisions for no-fault divorces where the grounds of it can be on irreconcilable differences and other no-fault grounds. Only a few states still consider fault grounds, such as adultery or abandonment.

Temporary Orders

Not every divorce requires temporary orders but when one spouse is financially dependant on the other or will have custody of their children, that spouse will need to ask for temporary orders for financial support and custody. Temporary orders are usually granted within a few days of their being requested and remain in effect until a full court hearing.

Service of Process

Service of process is a document that the party who files for the divorce needs to also file. This is to show that a copy of the divorce petition was given to the other party. In acrimonious divorces, this may be hard to do and is why some process servers will show up at peoples homes or their work to make sure that they can physically hand the divorce papers to the other party in the divorce.


The person who “gets served” needs to file a response to the petition. This response can dispute the grounds a divorce was filed on and/or if there is a disagreement to property division, support, custody or any other issues.


When parties cannot agree on their divorce terms, they need to come to an agreement. A court may schedule settlement conferences, mediation, evaluations by social workers, and other strategies, to help disagreeing parties come to an agreement.


Many divorces do not reach the trial phase but in divorces where the parties cannot come to an agreement, a trial may be necessary.

Order of Dissolution

This is what officially ends a marriage and spells out how the property and debts are to be divided, custody, support and other issues.

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