The 7 Steps After Filing for Divorce

The 7 Steps After Filing for Divorce

Most people who file for a divorce do not have an attorney to represent them. They confident on their own because, while the initial filing process is a little complicated, most people can figure it out.  The next steps get considerably more complicated and many people get frustrated and let the divorce linger for years at a time. Couples move out, separate and move on with their life, content to let the courts hold onto the “divorce” papers.

Often I meet with clients who have moved on with their life and ignored the lingering divorce filing until they want to get married again, their spouse refuses to continue supporting the family, or other life events remind them they are still married. In the mean time changes in family structure, financial increase or decrease, and other life factors may have significantly altered the issues of property division, child support, and spousal support. It is almost always in a couples best interest to move through the divorce process as quickly as possible.

The following steps may help (of course every situation is unique so feel free to contact Stucki Law Firm if you have a question about your case)

 

Step 1: File 

File for Divorce – CHECK, you’ve done that.

Step 2: Serve 

Serve the papers on your spouse. The court doesn’t even consider itself to have jurisdiction over your divorce until you serve the papers on your spouse. That means the clock hasn’t even started for your divorce. If you have not served your spouse, do it ASAP  (click here to find out how to serve another person with the divorce papers)

Step 3: Wait

“Hey, I am already waiting!” you say. Yes, you are waiting, but probably way too long. After filing and serving your spouse you should only wait 30 days. If you spouse has not responded, you can proceed in default.

Step 4: Preliminary Disclosures

Most of the initial stage of divorce involves gathering a large amount of financial papers; credit card statements, mortgage accounts,  years of tax returns, bank statements, appraisals, etc.  All these documents support your financial disclosures. You need to fill out a number of court forms (typically including: FL-140, FL-142, FL-150).  Serve your spouse copies of your supporting financial documents, and forms FL-142 and FL-150 (servicing instructions). Then file Fl-140 with the court (don’t file the rest).

You only have 60 days from filing your divorce to serve and file the preliminary disclosures.

Tip: Preliminary financial disclosures can be served at the same time as the divorce papers in step 2 when initially filling for divorce. This saves time and services expenses. Unfortunately most people are not in a state to prepare all this information in advance of filing for divorce.

Step 5: Fight, or Not

What to do next depends on you and your soon to be ex. If you can come to an agreement about how to split property, child support (the amount usually needs to be within legal guidelines) or spousal support, you can avoid a lot of the court process. Do you want to fight about it? Or is your spouse a total jerk and can’t agree to anything?  The court system is designed exactly for this situation (and attorneys like me will be happy to take your money to make sure you get what is justly yours).

If there are disagreements about some issues (like child support and visitation) but you are in agreement about how to divide the property, you can separate out the disputed issues and go ahead with the divorce. The court can help you resolve the disputed issues apart from actually being able to get divorced.

Step 6: Judgment

Most people give up here. The judgment forms can be very complicated and vary a lot depending on each situation. For sure you will need FL-180 and FL-190. (You may also need Fl-165 and Fl-170 if you are in a default divorce). Attach the appropriate forms and documents as listed on the Fl-180 based on your situation and agreements and stipulations if you have them. You will also need to complete the financial disclosures once again (called the final disclosures). Or you can waive them under some circumstances. File the judgment forms with the court.

The judgment process varies considerably. If you feel overwhelmed, you can seek the services of an attorney. If you don’t want full-representation but just need a little guidance with some aspects of your case, Stucki Law Firm can provide limited scope and flat fee arrangements.

Step 7: Move on

Time to move on with your life. If you have children with your ex-spouse or receive/pay spousal support, the court will retain jurisdiction on those matters. So remember to maintain a healthy working relationship with your ex-spouse. Your children will thank you.

If you don’t have children or support issues with your ex-soouse, then you are done, move on, try to forget about it (or don’t, whatever you feel is healthy).

Divorce is not an easy process, legally or emotionally. But most people get through it. Many even find peace and a better life afterwards. You can too.