5 Steps to Getting a Legal Divorce


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Written by Alayna Okerlund | Last Updated November 1st, 2019
Alayna Okerlund is a Senior Content Strategist at BestCompany.com. She is proud of her journalism background and strives to create informative, interesting online content. Professionally, she plans to further develop her writing skills and continue building up her SEO knowledge base. When she's not working, she enjoys being in nature and trying new foods.


Divorce is just one of many situations that requires legal assistance. According to the National Center for Health Statistics website, there were 2,140,272 marriages with a total of 813,862 divorces in 2014. Although the divorce rate has steadily decreased since 2002, many people facing divorce are unsure what to do. Below are five steps for getting a legal divorce.

1. Determine if the divorce will be contested or uncontested

According to divorcesource.com, how much time, energy, and money a couple spends on their divorce will depend on whether the divorce is contested or uncontested.

  • Contested divorce—both partners cannot agree on the either the divorce in general or the divorce terms such as assets and children.
  • Uncontested divorce—both partners agree and do not require court assistance in determining divorce terms.
If the partners can come to an agreement and file for an uncontested divorce, they will both save money, time, energy, and stress.

2. File an official complaint

According to Divorce Magazine, filing a complaint is the next step. The legal documents that are filed at this point are known as a summons, which announces the divorce's action, and a petition, which identifies assets/children of both partners and what relief is sought, according to womansdivorce.com.

3. Set orders

If children and large reoccurring payments/debts are involved, temporary orders need to be set until the court hearing. These orders are designed to secure finances and keep things like insurance and bank accounts from changing.

4. Set a court trial, if necessary

Any terms or issues that the partners cannot agree on are then sent to a court trial where the decisions will be made by a judge. During the trial, both people involved in the divorce proceedings will have the opportunity to provide their testimonials, witnesses will be asked to provide information, and exhibit documents will be shared. After this occurs, decisions to settle the disputes will be made. Either party may choose to appeal the court decision(s) afterwards; however, there are typically strict time limits for appeals.

5. Finalize divorce

The divorce is usually made final after both parties willingly take the settlements and all legal work is reported and put to rest.

Divorces take time to work through and you will want to do research before moving forward with divorce proceedings. Online resources and services are available to provide reliable information on divorce proceedings. A list of reputable online legal services as well as 150 honest consumer reviews can be found on bestcompany.com.

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