Summary in Divorce
A person initiates a divorce by filing a complaint or petition, and he or she has to state the reason for requesting that divorce.
When the facts meet the statutory criteria for ending a marriage, the aggrieved spouse is said to have grounds for action. He or she becomes the plaintiff or petitioner, who is the party initiating the action. The party who replies is the defendant or respondent. After the aggrieved spouse has filed the complaint (or petition) and summons, the responding party can other file responsive documents or he or she can let the case proceed by default. The complaint (or petition) and summons must be served properly, often by a process server or constable. Often the response form looks very much like the complaint (or petition) and it sets forth many of the same facts contained in the complaint (or petition). Sometimes courts require other papers with a response -- a cover sheet or a financial disclosure. After this, what happens is determined by whether or not the divorce is contested. An uncontested divorce means that a judgment is entered without a trial. The couple have successfully negotiated the terms and conditions of the martial settlement. This can happen summarily, by default (where on spouse files and the other does not respond), through mediation (where the couple use a trained mediator), or by collaboration (where the couple actively cooperate with each other and lawyers are negotiators). The case can move on, and the time between filing and the judgment of divorce varies by jurisdiction from a few weeks to a few months. An uncontested divorce proceeds through the system more quickly, is much less complicated, and is less of a financial burden. Couples who can not agree have what is called a contested divorce, an adversarial action where at least one issue has not been settled. Often couples begin the process of a contested divorce and then, before the trial, reach agreement. This is called a settlement. One of the biggest advantages of a settlement is that neither spouse will appeal it because both are presumably satisfied with it and can, therefore, be assured of finality and an end to litigation.
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