The Three Steps of Divorce

Divorce is a three-step process. Getting through those steps is not simple. The issues are challenging and emotional. There are, however, creative and practical ways to address needs, secure a stable future, and maintain control of decision-making throughout the divorce process.

Step One

The first step is the hardest, and it doesn’t involve lawyers. It’s a spouse's assessment of the marriage. It’s the tough and emotional process of deciding to get divorced.

Step Two

The second step does involve lawyers. It’s the step in which the issues posed by separation and divorce must be addressed and resolved. These include the identification, valuation and division of assets. They include deciding where children will live, each parent’s involvement in their lives, and how the children will be supported. They include determining whether and in what amount spousal support should be paid and how health insurance will be provided. Most people do succeed in coming to a comprehensive private settlement agreement, and they do it using negotiation, mediation, the collaborative law process or other forms of alternative dispute resolution.

Step Three

Step three can be easy or hard. If step two has been successful—if spouses have been able to resolve all issues privately and consensually—then step three is uncomplicated. Step three is simply getting an uncontested divorce. There is a fifteen minute divorce hearing at the end of which a judgment of divorce is issued.

But step three can be hard. If step two has been unsuccessful—if spouses have been unable to resolve all issues privately and consensually—then, in step three, a third party must make those decisions. People either go to court, which is a public forum, to have a judge decide these issues, or they go to arbitration, which is a private forum, to have an arbitrator decide these issues.


This is not legal advice. Please read our "disclaimer" to understand why this information is not a substitute for legal advice.