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What are the 10 steps to the divorce process?

The average Pennsylvania divorce will require various stages before the spouses can call themselves 'divorced.' The number of these steps, or stages, will depend on whether you and your spouse can reach an out-of-court settlement.

With this in mind, here are the steps and stages you can expect if you're initiating the divorce process:

  • Drafting and filing the divorce petition: This document explains why one of the spouses wants to divorce and how he or she proposes to settle matters pertaining to child custody, spousal and child support and financial concerns. This petition is then served upon the other spouse.
  • The other spouse answers the divorce petition: The other spouse will answer the divorce petition with his or her preferences regarding settlement.
  • Discovery proceedings ensue: These involve the sharing of information that will be used to reach a fair settlement and/or divorce ruling on the case.
  • Settlement and approval by the family court judge: If the couple can settle their case -- perhaps through private negotiations or mediation proceedings -- they will sign a settlement agreement, which a family court judge will review and approve.
  • The couple goes to court: If the couple can't reach a divorce agreement, then they will go to court and try their case before a judge.
  • The judge issues a divorce decree: Whether the case is settled or decided by trial, a judge will issue a divorce decree that governs the terms of the breakup.

It's important to fully understand the above stages of the divorce process before you begin your proceedings. It's also important to understand the law and your legal rights in the breakup, as it will assist you in reaching a successful out-of-court settlement.

Source: FindLaw, "A Divorce Timeline," accessed April 12, 2018

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