The procedure begins by first filing a Petition of Dissolution of Marriage. That’s a document that notifies the court that you are planning on getting a divorce, and it can be filed by either one of the parties. After that, typically, the parties do the best they can to decide how they can divide the assets and liabilities and, if there are children, to figure out custody issues as well as child support and spousal support.
Sometimes clients do that on their own, but there are different views about how things should be set up – whether it be visitation, custody, or division of assets – and sometimes attorneys are brought in to hopefully settle things without going to court.
Once that process starts, an interim division of income and assets is put together. That document splits up the income of the parties and decides how much each party is going to get from the income during the pendency of the divorce: from the date of the petition being filed until the day they get a divorce. During that period of time, they will file a document that tells the court how much each party will be getting to live on until the day of the divorce.
After the negotiations are settled, a document called a Marital Settlement Agreement is filed with the court as well as a Final Decree. Those two documents become an order of the court that states who’s going to get what assets and liabilities. The Final Decree is a very short document, usually two pages, and is signed by the judge. Once that Final Decree is signed, the parties are divorced.
If there are children involved, a third document is filed. That document is a Parenting Plan, which will spell out the time the children are going to spend with each party. It may include child support and all kinds of other issues regarding holidays and summer vacations. These are mentioned to detail how the children will spend their time with the parent.
Once those three documents (the Marital Settlement Agreement, the File Decree, and the Parenting Plan) are signed by the court, the parties are divorced.
Robert Matteucci is an attorney at Atkinson & Kelsey. He concentrates his practice on family law, including divorce, division of assets, custody, support, and collaborative law. He specializes in family law cases involving business ownership, substantial assets, and complex asset and liability issues. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Tulane University and a law degree from The University of New Mexico.