An action for divorce starts with one spouse filing a Complaint for Divorce in the county where either spouse resides. The parties must be separated for one year prior to the filing of the Complaint. If the wife seeks to resume her maiden name, a request may be included in the initial Complaint. Any claims for spousal support or equitable distribution are waived upon the entry of a divorce judgment. Therefore, these claims should be included in a divorce complaint if not filed previously.
After the Complaint is filed, it must be properly served on the defendant-spouse. Proper service is made by Sheriff, certified mail with signature confirmation, designated process server, or by publication. A defendant-spouse may also sign an Acceptance of Service in front of a notary, which is then filed with the Clerk.
Joint legal custody is likely the most common outcome in a Custody Order. In this scenario, the parents are ordered to work together to reach a resolution on major decisions regarding their children. Generally, when the parties are unable to reach a mutual decision after a good faith effort, they are ordered to seek the assistance of a mediator in coming to an agreement.
Once the defendant-spouse has been properly served with the Complaint, he or she has thirty days to respond to the allegations in the Complaint. After thirty days, a Motion for Summary Judgment may be filed requesting a hearing to enter the divorce judgment. Depending on the county, the judge will either sign the Judgment for Divorce without a hearing or will hold a brief hearing on the issues. The parties are not officially divorced until the Divorce Judgment is entered.