A divorce is legal in nature and proceeds much like any other lawsuit. For that reason, the process for obtaining a divorce is often referred to as an "action for divorce." Although states can vary on the specific steps, the purpose of a divorce action is to legally dissolve the marriage and settle matters related to property, spousal support, and child custody and support.
Overview of a Divorce Action
A divorce action starts with one spouse filling out and filing a complaint for divorce. The complaint includes the reason for divorce, also known as the grounds for divorce. Grounds differ from state to state, but all states have no-fault grounds, such as separation for a period of time, while most states also have fault-based grounds, such as adultery. The next step is to provide a copy of the complaint to the other spouse, typically in person through the assistance of a sheriff or process server. The receiving spouse has a set amount of time to respond in writing. The parties are then provided with a period to exchange information and reach agreement on the major divorce issues. If they cannot agree to the terms of their divorce, the court schedules a trial, and then issues a final divorce judgment after both parties present their cases.