• REGULAR DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE
The regular dissolution process begins with a petition for dissolution
of marriage, filed with the circuit court by the husband or wife,
which states that the marriage is irretrievably broken and sets out
what the person wants from the court. The other partner must file
an Answer within 20 days maximum, addressing the matters within the
initial petition and raising issues the answering party desires.
Court rules governing divorces require that each party provide
certain financial documents and a completed financial affidavit
to the other party within 45 days of the service of the petition
or before any temporary relief hearing. The extent of the information
to be provided depends on the annual income and expenses of each
party. Failure to provide this information can result in the court
dismissing the case or not considering that party's requests. The
parties or the court can modify these requirements except for the
filing of a financial affidavit, which is mandatory in all cases.
Some couples agree on property settlements, child custody, and
other post-divorce arrangements before or soon after the original
petition is filed. They then enter into a written agreement signed
by both parties that is presented to the court. In such an uncontested
case, a divorce can become final in a matter of a few weeks.
Other couples disagree on some issues, work out their differences,
and appear for a final hearing with a suggested settlement which
is accepted by the judge.
Mediation is a procedure to assist you and your spouse in working
out an arrangement for reaching agreement without a protracted process
or a trial. Its purpose is not to save a marriage, but to help divorcing
couples reach a solution to their problems and arrive at agreeable
terms for handling their dissolution. Many counties have mediation
services available; some are mandatory.
Finally, some couples cannot agree on much of anything and a trial-with
each side presenting its case-is required. The judge makes the final
decision on contested issues.
The equitable dissolution process is designed to make the divorce
as fair as possible to both husband and wife, which usually means
negotiation-and compromise-by both partners.
Attorneys have learned it is unrealistic to expect both partners
to be "happy" with their divorce. The experience can be
emotionally devastating. The financial upheaval of supporting two
households instead of one causes hardship for the entire family.
The parties, however, can take steps to make the process easier
for themselves and their children.