To start, one of the spouses hires a lawyer, who files a petition for them in court. This document states basic facts about the marriage. The spouse will be referred to as the petitioner for the rest of the case.

The lawyer serves the other spouse with a summons to make sure that they get a copy of the petition. Lawyers usually hire a process server to go to the other spouses house to give them the petition.

The other spouse now has a deadline to file an appearance in court. Then can represent themselves or hire their own lawyer. This spouse will be referred to as the respondent for the rest of the case.

The parties disclose all their assets and financial information to each other. This process is called discovery.

The petitioner and the respondent work on coming to an agreement over the division of their marital assets and child bearing responsibilities. Sometimes, spouses will hire mediators and child representatives to help them reach final decisions.

If a spouse refuses to comply with a request, or a lawyer needs a decision to be made on something specific he will file a motion that will be heard before a judge. The judge will make a decision regarding this motion.

Lawyers will also regularly schedule status updates where they check in on the case in front of the judge. Hearings are court dates where judges will make final decisions.

When the parties come to a final agreement, three different types of documents put it into writing. A marital settlement agreement is used to divide assets. An allocation of parental responsibilities divides parental responsibilities. A judgement of dissolution of marriage finalizes the divorce.