Understanding The Stages Of Divorce

In any difficult situation, having some idea of what to expect can reduce stress and allow you to prepare mentally and emotionally. The same is true of divorce. While each case is different, we've provided a typical outline of what happens during divorce in Ohio.

Step 1: Making The Decision

This may be a long time in coming. If you are the spouse initiating the divorce, you'll have the advantage of choosing the time that is easiest for you (likely with considerations for your spouse and your children as well).

Step 2: Filing (Or Responding To) The Divorce Petition

If you initiate the divorce, you are considered the petitioner or plaintiff. If your spouse initiates, you are the respondent or defendant. Neither party has a tactical advantage, except that the petitioner may have a head start on choosing a lawyer and has had time to process the news of the divorce.

The petitioner chooses to file no-fault or fault-based divorce, and will also state intentions for how assets should be divided, how child custody should be awarded, etc. These are simply statements of intention, not binding orders.

Once the petitioner files, the respondent is "served" with papers and is given a period of time to respond. He or she can bring counterclaims or submit defenses (to allegations of fault). If no response is given within the time frame, the court considers the divorce to be uncontested.

Step 3: Discovery Period

Both parties should now have their own attorneys. During this phase, the attorneys (and any other hired professionals) will take the time to assess the couple's finances and assets (and debts), categorize marital vs. separate property, and properly value each listed item.

This is also the time to conduct other research relevant to the divorce. For instance, claims of infidelity would need to be investigated if one spouse had filed a fault-based divorce claiming infidelity.

Step 4: Negotiation And/Or Mediation

Coming to an agreement outside of the courtroom is beneficial to everyone involved. It tends to be faster and less expensive than litigation and gives both parties more control over the outcome. With that in mind, many Ohio couples opt to try mediation as a way to reach a divorce settlement.

In mediation, both parties sit down with a neutral mediator (and their own respective attorneys) to work toward agreement on all contested issues. The mediator does not give rulings. His or her job is to keep parties talking and working toward their own agreement.

Sometimes, issues can be resolved through negotiation outside of a mediation scenario (using what are called pretrial conferences). Even if the case needs to go to trial, having some of these issues resolved ahead of time is helpful.

Step 5: Trial

Any unresolved issues will go before a judge during a trial. This gives both parties less control over the outcome but is sometimes the only way to reach an outcome on contested issues.

Step 6: Resolution And Decree

Whether or not the case has gone to trial, a judge will need to issue a final decree for the divorce to become final. This essentially solidifies the resolution worked out in negotiation, mediation or trial.

Contact Us To Discuss Your Case With A Family Law Attorney

Hartley Law Office, LLC, serves clients in Dayton and surrounding communities. To learn more about the divorce process and how we can help you, contact us to schedule an initial consultation. Call 937-684-9271 or send us an email to get started.