Your legal rights and responsibilities changed when you got married. They change again when you get divorced.
People often use the word ‘divorce’ to refer to the overall experience of a marriage breakdown. Technically, it is dissolution of your valid marriage and a change of your legal marital status.
In law, this dissolution is bundled together with certain issues – parenting, child support, and spousal support. A court usually requires these issues to be resolved or decided before it will grant you a divorce. Family property is most often dealt with at the same time as other issues , but it doesn’t have to be to get your divorce.
Divorce is an emotional, logistical and relational experience, in addition to a legal one. On this page, we focus on the legal divorce experience and the common steps in a divorce. You may, as other spouses do, find it helpful to have an idea of what the process looks like, to plan and make your decisions moving forward.
There are two main parts to a divorce – working out how to separate all the parts of your marriage (children, money and things), and the divorce paperwork.
Some families are able to work out and agree on the details of their separation, without outside help. Other families need the help of professionals, including lawyers and mediators, to resolve their issues.
Once the issues are resolved, regardless of whether you needed help or not, you should have a properly drafted Separation Agreement, Divorce Judgment and/or Court Orders to protect your agreement or outcome. These documents must be clearly and carefully drafted to avoid interpretation or other issues in the future.
It is common for spouses to need legal advice and representation to resolve their divorce issues.
There are several processes available, in and out of Court, to resolve these issues – negotiation, mediation, arbitration, collaborative law, and Court. The process you use will impact the time, cost, steps and experience of your resolution.
All processes, except court, are voluntary. Arbitration and court are binding processes, while the others are non-binding. Non-binding processes require your and your spouses’ agreement for the issue to be resolved. In binding processes, the issues are decided by a Judge or arbitrator and will be decided based on the law, regardless of your agreement.
We tailor our services to meet your unique needs, circumstances, and objectives. The steps we take will be set out in our retainer. These are, however, common steps to the divorce process. We will discuss what is best for you and the details with you specifically.
These are the common steps we take in a divorce matter:
First, we assess your case to give you our advice.
Whether you hire a lawyer or represent yourself, it is important for you to receive independent legal advice so you can make informed legal decisions. We need to know all the relevant facts and circumstances about your family and review all relevant documents to give you quality legal advice. Once we have the relevant information, we assess your case. This usually includes income, child support, spousal support, and property analysis. From our assessment, we let you know your legal rights and responsibilities, your options to resolve your dispute, along with the risks, cost, and possible outcome of each option.
Early on, we prepare and file your divorce claim.
A divorce claim is a document that starts your divorce in court. You and your spouse may file for divorce jointly or separately. If you file separately, one of you will file a claim and the other will file their defense and counterclaim. These documents are filed with the Clerk of the Court and served on the other spouse.
We must exchange all relevant information and financial disclosure.
You and your spouse have to exchange all relevant information related to your separation/divorce. This includes financial information. The law is clear about the obligation for spouses to disclose. For this reason, it is common for spouses to voluntarily exchange their financial information once they separate. A Notice to Disclose/Application is a document that sets out the starting point for documents that should be exchanged.
You and your spouse will choose a process to resolve any issues you don’t agree on.
The process you choose to resolve your legal matter will have a significant impact on the outcome, cost, and your divorce experience. You can choose to resolve out of court or in court. You can use a collaborative process or an adversarial one. You can choose a non-binding process, like mediation, or a binding process, like arbitration. Carefully review your options and talk to a lawyer about the details of each. Common processes include:
- Collaborative law
- Judicial Dispute Resolution
You and your spouse may conduct a questioning of each other, under oath, to ask for more information and documents.
A court reporter is present at the questioning and records everything that is said. The transcript can then be used in evidence. A spouse being questioned may also be required to produce certain further information or to take certain action through legal promises, called undertakings.
Consult with or hire experts where you need better evidence to inform and make your case.
You may chose to hire experts to help you with the information you need to resolve your matter. This may include a home appraiser, business valuator, accountant, or parenting expert.
We then prepare and participate in your process.
Each process requires a different kind of preparation and participation. Preparation often includes planning a settlement structure, preparing you to give evidence, drafting affidavits, gathering and organizing evidence, and developing solutions or legal arguments.
Once the issues are solved or decided, we prepare the necessary Agreement or Orders.
It is important that these documents are properly drafted to capture and protect the outcome of our matter. The documents have certain drafting, signing, and filing requirements.
Lastly, we prepare your divorce package and obtain your Divorce Judgment and Certificate from the Court.
Once your parenting and support issues have been resolved and you have been separated for a year (assuming you are not claiming another ground for divorce), you submit your divorce package to the court for a judge to review and grant your divorce. A month after your Divorce Judgment is granted, you can apply for your certificate of divorce.
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