The first step is to meet with an attorney for an initial consultation. Most attorneys charge for this service. Don't underestimate the importance of hiring somebody you are comfortable with. Legal representation is a personal service. It is important that you are confident in the attorney advocating for you. Bring all of the documents you believe will be important in determining the issues of your divorce. These may include a current mortgage statement, credit card bills, current auto loan statements, and other documents. If you have already been served with a Complaint for Dissolution of Marriage, bring that as well.
Commencing the Case: After you retain an attorney, he or she will file a Complaint for Dissolution of Marriage on your behalf. If you have already been served with a complaint filed by your spouse's attorney, your attorney will file with the court a written Answer to the Complaint. If you have been served, it is important that you retain legal counsel as soon as possible. You have thirty days from the date you are served to file an Answer to the Complaint.
Temporary Motions & Orders: Your attorney and/or opposing counsel may file a Motion for Temporary Relief. If either side does so, you will have a hearing. These temporary hearings are usually done by affidavits in the Judge's chambers. Only the attorneys and the Judge are present.
Some typical requests for temporary relief include a determination by the Judge as to who will reside in the marital home until the final Decree is entered, a determination of temporary spousal or child support, temporary child custody and parenting time, and temporary restraining orders. The hearing for temporary relief will result in a Temporary Order by the Judge regarding the issues raised at the hearing.
Preparing for Trial: The trial preparation phase is also called the "discovery" phase of litigation. Your attorney may serve the other side with Interrogatories and/or Requests for Production of Documents. These are tools for obtaining sworn statements and documentary evidence for use at trial, or to aid your attorney in reaching a fair settlement on your behalf.
Your attorney may also issue subpoenas for third parties to obtain documents or testimony.
Depositions are also commonly used. During a deposition, your attorney will ask questions of witnesses for the opposing side. The witness oral statements are taken under oath by a court reporter. Opposing counsel will be present. Clients usually attend depositions
Settlement: During this process, your attorney should work to reach a settlement on your behalf, on the terms you approve. Occasionally attorneys will hold a settlement conference where the parties and their lawyers try to reach an agreement. Mediation may also be helpful.
Trial: If settlement isn’t possible, a trial will be had. Both sides will present evidence, including documents and testimony, supporting their position. In a divorce trial, the Judge is the decision maker. Juries are not used in domestic relations cases.
The trial will result in a Divorce Decree. The Decree can be appealed from for thirty days after it is issued. You cannot marry anywhere in the world for six months from the date your Divorce Decree is issued.