Divorce is an incredibly difficult experience that requires a significant investment of time, money, and energy to see through to completion. When it is over, it’s natural to feel a sense of relief and possibly regret as one begins the next phase of their life on their own. However, getting to this point often presents significant challenges to divorcing spouses in the Midwest.

It’s not uncommon to feel uncertain when divorce becomes an unavoidable reality. Once a marriage has broken down beyond any hope of reconciliation, it is generally in the spouses’ best interests to settle their divorce as expeditiously as possible. If you feel lost about starting the divorce process or what to expect from the proceedings to come, call our office. It’s a good idea to consult a Midwest family law attorney for specific insights into your unique situation.

How Does the Divorce Process Start?

Divorce proceedings formally begin when a married person files for divorce with the local courthouse. They submit the necessary forms and supplemental paperwork, and then the court formally notifies their spouse of the divorce petition, providing them the opportunity to respond. The other spouse may either agree to the other’s proposed terms for divorce or dispute these terms. It is very rare for a divorcing couple to agree entirely on every possible issue as soon as they file their divorce petition. There are several options for transforming a contested or disputed divorce into an uncontested one.

Will My Divorce Go to Trial?

A divorce case is similar to other civil cases, and litigation may be necessary for resolving very complex or hotly contested elements of a divorce. However, litigation is not the only route to resolving a divorce, and it is typically considered a last resort when alternative dispute resolution has failed. Litigation is expensive and can easily require months if not years of difficult court appearances, cross examinations, and arduous legal proceedings.

Most divorcing couples in the US choose alternative dispute resolution such as mediation to avoid the expense and stress of divorce litigation. In the Midwest, most divorce attorneys advise their clients to pursue collaborative divorce whenever possible.

How Does Divorce Mediation Work?

When divorcing spouses are willing to compromise and negotiate, they can take full advantage of divorce mediation’s benefits. This process allows a divorcing couple to circumvent the usual expense and time required of litigation and settle their divorce privately. While they cannot make final decisions on some things, such as child custody and child support, they can negotiate property division, spousal support, and liquidation of community property.

Mediation will take place on neutral ground, such as the office of the divorcing couple’s mediator. The process only takes as long as the divorcing couple needs to fully cover all the elements of their divorce. The mediator can answer legal questions and clarify state divorce statutes as needed throughout these proceedings.

What Can Be Determined in Mediation?

Divorce mediation allows divorcing spouses to negotiate several aspects of their divorce. While it is possible to negotiate some difficult subjects like child custody and child support, a divorcing couple cannot make final decisions on such matters. The mediator can help the couple address the issues over which they have direct control first before moving on to issues that demand court approval. For example, the divorcing couple may negotiate a parenting plan and include it in their proposed divorce agreement. The judge who reviews it may accept it based on their interpretation of the facts in play if it aligns with state law, or the judge may require adjustments to the proposed agreement.

Your Midwest family law attorney can help you determine which elements of your divorce will fall under your direct control and which remain beholden to legal statute.

How Long Does the Divorce Process Take?

Many factors go into determining how long a divorce will take to resolve. The absolute soonest a divorce will be granted is the state’s mandated waiting period. This is the minimum amount of time required for a divorce to be finalized, and this amount varies from state to state.

The next step in estimating how long divorce will take to resolve is assessing the method in which the couple are handling their divorce. For example, complex litigation in a high net worth divorce may require months or even several years before the court deems the divorce agreement fit for finalization. By comparison, mediation could allow the same divorcing couple to settle their divorce in as little as a few weeks, depending on how cooperative they are during mediation sessions.

I Have My Divorce Decree. What Happens Next?

Once a divorcing couple has finalized their divorce agreement and completed the required waiting period, their divorce is granted, and they are no longer married. The terms of their divorce agreement take effect at this time. Both spouses must abide by the terms of their divorce agreements. For example, failure to adhere to a child custody or visitation schedule could potentially lead to criminal prosecution, as could failure or refusal to pay child support or alimony.

Ideally, once a divorce is finalized, both spouses can move on separately with their lives. However, this is always potential for either spouse to revisit their divorce decree in family court as new life events unfold and their needs change. For example, if a child suddenly develops a medical condition that entails expensive treatment, this could have a bearing on the existing child support arrangement between the child’s parents. Family law throughout the Midwest allows an individual in this position to file a post-judgment motion and have their divorce agreement formally adjusted.

Ultimately, every divorce is different, and while many divorce cases unfold along similar lines, every case is unique. Every couple will have different challenges and opportunities in their divorce proceedings. It’s essential to have reliable legal representation if you are heading for divorce in the Midwest. Your legal counsel can help you prepare for the proceedings to come so you can approach the situation with greater confidence.