Divorce can be a trying time and it is important to have an attorney on your side. Depending on your circumstances, there are many issues that may need to be resolved in your case with long-term consequences, including:
- child custody, child support, parent-time;
- alimony; and
- division of debt, property, and pension and retirement benefits.
The process of divorce begins with the filing of a petition. The spouse who files the petition is called the Petitioner; the other spouse is called the Respondent. You may want to request temporary orders to address immediate needs such provisions for child support and custody, parent time, use of the marital home, payment of debts, and other matters.
There is a mandatory 90-day waiting period after the petition is filed before the court will enter a divorce decree even you and your spouse can agree on all the terms in your petition. In some circumstances, the court may waive the 90-day waiting period. Whether you come to an agreement with your spouse or go through a trial, you are not divorced until the judge signs the decree.
Annulment means that your marriage never existed. This is different from a divorce, which ends a marriage. An annulment has different financial, social and religious consequences than a divorce. Even though an annulment means the marriage never existed, the court may order child custody, parent time, and child support for children born during the marriage. The court may also address property and debt division and other issues. While the court process for requesting an annulment is similar to that for a divorce, the required legal grounds are different.
The circumstances in which the court can order a marriage annulled are limited. A marriage can be annulled only for one of the following reasons:
- One person was married to someone else, including if that person's divorce decree was not yet final.
- One person was under 18, and that person's parent did not consent to the marriage.
- One person was under 14 (if the marriage was before May 3, 1999) or under 16 (if the marriage was on or after May 3, 1999).
- The marriage was between close relatives who are not permitted to marry.
If you are considering divorce, but not ready to take that step, temporary separation is an optional step you may take before filing for divorce. You will need court orders to establish temporary provisions concerning alimony, property and debt management and division, health care insurance, housing, child support, child custody and parent time. If either party files a petition for divorce within one year after the date of filing the petition for temporary separation, the amount of the temporary separation filing fee is credited towards the divorce filing fee.