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  • Seth Eric Springer, Esq.

What Are the 5 Stages of Divorce?

Going through a divorce for the first time can be quite a chore. To most people, the whole process is new and complicated, so there’s plenty of room for mistakes. Not to mention, the cost of a simple divorce is not cheap. So, in order to go through the divorce, the spouse should at least know how the whole process goes from beginning to end. In other words, he needs to figure out what each individual stage of this process is in order to proceed properly.

There isn’t really a set number of different stages of divorce. Some legal experts claim there are only 3 or 4, while others can list as many as 9. But the most common number seems to be 5, harkening back to the famous Kübler-Ross model (i.e. the five stages of grief). This article details the 5 stages of an average divorce process.



5 Stages of Divorce


Stage #1: The Summons and the Petitions

First and foremost, one spouse will have to fill in the appropriate documents and serve them to the other. These documents are called the Summons and the Petition for Divorce and people can find them on any official court website.

The spouse needs to file these documents and then enlist the services of a proper process server who will do so formally. The spouse can also serve the papers informally to their partner, provided they agree to it. What they can’t do is serve the papers formally by themselves.

With the papers now filed, the divorcing parties will probably receive a trial date and other additional deadlines for specific court-related tasks they have to complete.


Stage #2: Temporary Orders

During the waiting process, the spouse will want to file a motion that requires a set of ‘demands’ or ‘rules’ related to their specific case. These ‘demands’ are called temporary orders and they are only in place until the divorce is completely finalized.

Some of the most common temporary orders that the spouse can file a motion for include:

● Determining child support during the transitory period

● Approving a temporary parenting plan

● Asking to obtain possession of the family home

● Related to the prior order, they can also ask for the other spouse to move out

● Asking for the coverage of attorney fees or maintenance (in case the spouse can’t afford either)

When the court goes over the motion, the spouse will have a hearing about the orders. Once it’s done, they will be in place until the final orders are decided upon.

One way that both spouses can avoid going through a hearing is to agree on the temporary orders out of court.


Stage #3: The Discovery

Discovery entails the collection of all the necessary documents to make the divorce go over as smoothly as possible. It’s also one of the most time-consuming stages, since the spouses have to gather as much paperwork as possible.

A formal discovery request usually involves an attorney doing all the heavy lifting. However, this option is pricey, complicated, and it takes a while. Still, the main benefit of going this route is the fact that an attorney will do a thorough job and collect as much data as possible.

Of course, there’s always an informal discovery request option. In other words, the two spouses can exchange all of the relevant documents amongst themselves. But, this practice has its own risks, since a partner could hide an important document or two from their spouse.


Stage #4: The Settlement Options

More often than not, the parties involved in a divorce will find a way to settle the matter through mediation. This process involves a third-party legal expert who serves as the so-called mediator. Their job is to address the concerns of both spouses, as well as their legal representatives, and work out a way to please everyone. The key component is that the mediator has no immediate interest in either of the parties, i.e. that they do not act like a hired attorney.

Mediation tends to occur in person, with the mediator going back and forth between the two parties and hearing out their arguments. However, with COVID-19 still being rampant, most settlement proceedings occur online, via Zoom or other video conference streaming platforms.


Stage #5: The Trial

As stated in the previous paragraph, quite a few divorces end up being settled through simple mediation. However, if the spouses don’t agree on certain key aspects of their divorce, it will have to go to court and a trial will have to take place.

First and foremost, the spouses have to get everything ready pre-trial. That includes collecting and exchanging all of the relevant information, especially information regarding financial matters. Next, the York divorce lawyers prepare spouses for oral testimony. They will also do the same with the spouse’s direct witnesses.

The next step is going to trial. In the vast majority of cases, divorce trials take place before a commissioner or a judge. Also, no jury needs to be involved. Most divorce trials last for a few days. However, extreme cases can take up almost an entire month.

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