Separation and Divorce

Divorce Court Process: Main Steps


The only way a couple can divorce is by getting a decision of the court. To get a court decision, the couple must complete some important steps.

See our infographic on the subject

Important! If the spouses can agree on how to end their marriage, the court process will be simpler. To learn more, read our article Divorce by Agreement.

1. Application for Divorce

The court process starts when one spouse files an application for divorce in court.

This is the official request for a divorce. The spouse can ask for other things at the same time, such as parenting time with the children and division of property.

In addition, the spouse can file these requests along with the application for divorce:

The other spouse then gets official notice of the application and any requests. This is called service. The spouse receives a document called a “summons” and must answer the summons within 15 days after receiving it.

2. Presenting the Requests in Court

If there is a formal request for a safeguard order or for provisional measures, the request must be presented to the court before the trial.

Requests for a safeguard order must be presented at least 10 days after service, unless there is an emergency. Requests for provisional measures must be presented at least 10 days after service.

When a request for provisional measures is presented, the judge can give a safeguard order if one was requested.

3. The Case Protocol

The spouses must prepare a case protocol and file it in court within three months after service.

A case protocol is a written agreement between the spouses. It sets out what the spouses must do before the trial and how they will do it.

The case protocol must include these things: whether there will be any witnesses at the trial, whether an expert opinion is necessary, whether any documents must be sent to the other spouse, etc., and the deadlines for doing these things.

4. Hearing on Provisional Measures

If there is a request for provisional measures, there will be a court hearing before the trial. The judge listens to what the spouses have to say about the request and then makes a decision. The decision has effect until the final decision on the divorce.

The hearing on provisional measures is usually held a few months after the court process was started.

5. Fixing the Trial Date

To get a date for the trial, the spouses must file a document called a “request for setting down for trial and judgement.” This document must be filed in the office of the court within one year after the case protocol is accepted.

All necessary documents must be ready before a trial date can be fixed.

6. Trial

The trial is the final hearing in the divorce case. It can last from several hours to several days, depending on how difficult the issues are.

The judge makes a final decision within a few months after the trial.

To learn more, read our article Divorce Trials.