Divorce is a big step and often comes as a shock and surprise. Aside from the emotions of anger, outrage, hurt, and loss, it is common to experience confusion and doubt about the legal aspects of divorce.
In this article, the experienced Maryland divorce attorneys at the Law Offices of Thomas Stahl discuss what we call the stages of a divorce case. Call us at (410) 696-4326 or (202) 964-7280. We have offices in Columbia, MD, and Washington, DC. If you need to file for divorce or if you have been served with divorce papers, we can help.
Explaining the Phases of Divorce
In general, there are typically about five phases in a divorce case, including
- Initiation of the proceedings and response
- Divorce court resolution
Many divorce cases are resolved through agreement, so many cases will not have a “Trial Phase.” Here is what to expect in each phase.
Initiation and response
All divorce proceedings begin with one spouse filing a Petition for Divorce. Even if the spouses agree about obtaining a divorce, one spouse must still begin the process by filing a Petition. To see what a petition looks like, Maryland’s divorce petition can be found online. This is a written document filed at your local courthouse asking for a divorce. This document must be filed, along with other required papers and a filing fee. This document must also be hand-delivered — in most cases — to the other spouse. The other spouse must then file a written document called an Answer which is another form that is online.
This phase can be completed in about two months, depending on how quickly the Petition is hand-delivered to the other spouse. This phase also includes at least one hearing before the divorce court judge to set the schedule for the case.
The next phase is the “discovery” phase. This is the phase where the spouses exchange and produce information relevant to the case. This is done by:
- Answering written questions
- Producing copies of documents
- Allowing inspections of the property
- Having witnesses give oral testimony in recorded question-and-answer format. These are called “witness depositions.”
In truth, attempts to settle issues in a divorce case are an ongoing process and may occur in any of the other phases. However, specific mediation efforts are often ordered by divorce courts. Mediation is more formal than settlement “talks” and is done under the guidance of mediators. Mediators can be appointed by the court or can be chosen by an agreement between spouses. Mediation is somewhat informal, usually occurs in a “conference room setting,” and involves the spouses giving “their side” of the disputed issues and efforts by the mediators to bring the parties to an agreement.
As noted, in most divorce cases, the spouses can agree on several issues. Indeed, as noted, most divorcing spouses can come to an agreement on everything.
However, suppose the spouses cannot agree. In that case, any issue that remains disputed — such as a division of marital property or a claim for alimony — must then be decided by the divorce court. Most often, this is done through a trial, somewhat like is depicted in movies and television programs.
All divorce courts have a resolution phase. Even if the spouses are in full agreement, the divorce court must still review the agreement and issue the final Order that dissolves the marriage. When a trial is required, the divorce court resolves issues in dispute and then gives the final Order that dissolves the marriage.
Maryland and DC Divorce and Family Law Attorneys
Contact the seasoned and experienced Maryland and DC divorce, family law, and estate planning attorneys at The Law Offices of Thomas Stahl for more information. We have the skills and expertise you need and offer proven experience with divorce and family law for Maryland and the District of Columbia. Schedule a consultation today or call us at (410) 696-4326 or (202) 964-7280. We have offices in Columbia, MD, and Washington, DC.