Most people who have completed the divorce process in Missouri report that the experience was one of the most stressful and emotionally challenging of their lives. It is important to recognize that no two divorce cases are exactly alike, and everyone facing the divorce process in St. Charles will have a unique experience. However, there are some facets of the divorce process that are universal. In this regard, it’s a good idea to have a general idea regarding how your divorce proceedings will unfold.

Divorce is difficult, time-consuming, and often expensive. This is especially true for those who begin their divorce proceedings without a firm understanding of the legal mechanisms in play. Your case may involve emotionally challenging issues, and you are likely to feel uncertain and doubtful about your legal position. Understanding the basics of the divorce process will help you better prepare for your divorce case.

How Does Divorce Begin?

The divorce process informally begins as soon as a couple decides to end their marriage or when one married spouse decides to file for divorce. The formal legal process of divorce does not begin until a divorce petition is filed with the St. Charles, MO family court. This petition includes the petitioner’s preferred divorce terms and their reason for filing for divorce. In Missouri, it is not necessary to cite a specific fault or cause for divorce. As a result, most Missouri divorce petitions are filed for “irreconcilable differences,” a blanket term used to describe a marriage that has broken down beyond the point of reconciliation.

Some couples file joint divorce petitions while other spouses are blindsided by the realization that their spouses have filed for divorce. However, the filing of the divorce petition is the first step in any divorce case. At this point, the divorce can either be contested or uncontested.

Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce

Put simply, a contested divorce is a divorce in which the spouses disagree about certain elements of their divorce. The most cited points of contention in contested divorces are child custody, property division, and spousal support. It’s possible for divorcing spouses to have very little upon which they agree. Alternatively, they could have just one or two issues that demand resolution before they can proceed with finalizing the divorce. Once the divorce petition is filed, the respondent may either agree to the petitioner’s included terms in an uncontested divorce or disagree, resulting in a contested divorce. At this point, divorce proceedings can go several ways to change the contested divorce to an uncontested one agreeable to both parties.

Divorcing spouses are likely to disagree about at least a few aspects of their divorces. Uncontested divorces are rare and typically only occur when a couple decides to divorce after being married for a very short time. When a divorce in St. Charles, MO is contested, the divorcing spouses have several options for resolving their differences and reaching an uncontested divorce agreement. The two most common are divorce litigation and divorce mediation.

What to Expect in Divorce Litigation

When a couple takes their divorce to court, the case will unfold like any other civil case. Each spouse will have the opportunity to provide documentation and evidence, testify before the judge, and make their expectations clear. The judge will consider all available evidence and testimony before ruling on each aspect of the divorce. While this may seem like the fairest possible method for resolving a divorce, most people who undergo the litigation process find that the results don’t align precisely with their preferences or expectations. If you settle your divorce through litigation, the judge has the final say on every aspect of your divorce, and there is no guarantee they will make decisions as you would.

Depending on the complexity of a couple’s divorce, litigation could take several months or even longer than a year before the judge has decided every aspect of the case. Throughout the proceedings, both spouses must pay legal fees to their attorneys. Thus, it is common for divorcing spouses to feel as though their lives are on hold until their divorce is resolved. The stress, time investment, and high cost of legal fees for divorce litigation spur many divorcing couples to explore alternative dispute resolution, namely mediation.

Benefits of Divorce Mediation

No matter what your divorce entails, mediation can allow you and your spouse to reach a resolution much faster than litigation allows. Mediation is private settlement negotiation for divorce. The divorcing spouses and their legal representatives meet with a neutral mediator who assists the couple in negotiating terms and drafting the divorce order. Once complete, the mediated divorce resolution goes to a St. Charles family court judge for final review and approval. Most people can complete divorce mediation in a fraction of the time typically required for divorce litigation.

It’s possible to save a tremendous amount of time and money with alternative dispute resolution. However, it is vital to remember that the mediation process may not provide solutions for every aspect of a divorce. For example, a divorcing couple cannot settle child custody privately. The Missouri family court has a legal obligation to ensure any divorce order suits the children’s best interests. The couple can draft a parenting plan in mediation but must submit it to a family court judge for final review and approval.

Finalizing Your Divorce in St. Charles

Whether a couple chooses alternative dispute resolution or takes their divorce to court, the goal of divorce proceedings is to move a contested divorce to an uncontested status. It’s possible to settle some issues through alternative dispute resolution before moving to litigation to settle the rest. Some couples can potentially draft their divorce agreements within a few weeks of mediation sessions. Every divorce case is different, and the best asset anyone can have on their side in a St. Charles, MO divorce is a reliable attorney. Contact an experienced St. Charles, MO divorce lawyer as soon as possible if you are unsure how to approach your divorce.