What Happens after Divorce Papers Are Filed?

After filing your divorce papers, there are many steps to take before your divorce can be finalized. What follows is a theoretical map of what could happen in your divorce proceedings. Be aware that every divorce is unique and, depending on the state where you live, these steps could vary.

Temporary restraining order

When divorce papers are filed, one of the first things that might happen is the placement of a temporary order on both parties. 

This court order can prevent spouses from making major financial decisions or engaging in activities that could harm the other spouse, such as transferring large sums of money out of joint accounts. During this period, if any children are involved, the terms of child custody and support might also be established.

A temporary restraining order may also be issued in the event of domestic violence. Such an order provides protection from abuse for one spouse and minor children (if there are any).

Temporary hearing  

During a temporary court hearing, both spouses have an opportunity to state their position before a judge as to what assets and actions should be restrained during the divorce process. 

For example, you may need access to your joint checking account where your salary is deposited so you can continue to pay your bills. The court may allow this, provided that you give a monthly accounting of where the funds are going. A judge will want to review your expenses to make sure you or your spouse are not trying to hide funds or use marital funds that violate the temporary restraining order.

A temporary hearing at this point may also involve topics surrounding child custody and visitation, alimony, and other disputed matters. The hearing usually takes place within 90 days of filing the divorce papers.

Financial disclosures

Financial disclosures are a vital part of the divorce process. They provide each spouse with information about the other's income, assets, and debts. This information helps the couple come to a fair agreement regarding the division of marital assets.

The financial disclosure process is a discovery process that typically involves the sharing of income statements, tax returns, bank statements, and other pertinent financial documents. Both parties are meant to get an accurate picture of their finances. 

The documents will be used to ensure a fair distribution of assets. They can also help you make sure your spouse isn’t trying to hide assets from you, and vice versa.

Financial disclosures are often completed within 90 days of filing the divorce papers and must be provided to each spouse.

Settlement negotiation

Negotiation is often the bulk of the divorce process. Courts give divorcing couples great power to negotiate the terms of their divorce on their own. This is usually the best way to settle a divorce agreement, as it saves you both time and money in court. It also gives you more power and control over your assets. If you let a judge decide, they may not concern themselves with which items you really want and simply split your marital property according to your state's divorce laws.

Collaborative divorce

There are many types of negotiation processes available in divorce, and they don't have to be contentious situations. Possibly the least-contentious process is collaborative divorce. This is a divorce process where both parties and their attorneys agree to an amicable negotiation process. It's intentionally non-adversarial. Not only is this a benefit from a mental health perspective, but it's also helpful in quickly and effectively resolving disputes about how assets and debts should be divided.


Mediation is the other major negotiation process used in divorce. In some states and counties, at least one mediation session is required before a judge will hear divorce disputes.

Read: A Beginner’s Guide to Divorce Mediation

With mediation, two people work out the terms of their divorce agreement without going through a formal court process. Mediation differs from litigation with an expensive divorce lawyer in that it involves a third-party mediator who helps the divorcing couple reach an agreement outside of court. The mediator is impartial; they do not take sides. Rather, they help both parties communicate effectively and reach an agreement that works for both.

The goal of mediation is to provide a safe and comfortable environment for both parties to work through their issues and create solutions that meet everyone’s needs. When couples mediate a divorce settlement, they control how their assets are divided as opposed to a judge making that decision. This provides much more flexibility in terms of financial arrangements and other details of the split.

Mediation costs less than a divorce trial. It forgoes expensive attorneys’ fees, which can add up quickly over time. And since it’s a much less adversarial process than traditional courtroom proceedings, it's usually quicker and less stressful for both spouses.


Marital settlement agreement

A marital settlement agreement (MSA) will be drafted based on negotiations or court decisions. The MSA outlines how all assets will be divided between spouses along with any other relevant terms, such as spousal support payments, child support payments, or child custody arrangements. After both parties sign off on the agreement and a judge incorporates it into a divorce decree, it becomes legally binding and enforceable. 

An MSA can cover all aspects of the divorce case, such as the division of property and assets, child custody and support arrangements, alimony or spousal support, taxes, and other financial matters. It typically includes provisions for how debt will be divided, who will hold the title to real estate, who will pay outstanding bills, and how the couple's retirement accounts will be divided. It may also address medical insurance coverage for dependents, the division of personal property, and the division of any business interests or other financial investments held by either party. 

Can an MSA be modified?

Generally, the terms of an MSA are intended to be final. Thus, it can be difficult to modify an MSA after has been filed with the court. However, in some situations, spouses may petition for modification or even terminate their MSA. Common reasons for modification include a change in financial status or employment due to disability or job loss; relocation of either spouse; significant changes in income; and major health issues affecting one or both spouses.

How to get help with your divorce process

Your marriage is unique, and so, too, will be your divorce.

To help you navigate these complexities and reach a suitable divorce resolution, consider partnering with Hello Divorce. We offer online divorce plans that streamline the divorce process, lifting much of the burden off of you. We also offer professional divorce mediation, legal advice from experienced attorneys, and financial counseling, all of which you can read about on our services page

Divorce Content Specialist & Lawyer
Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Legal Insights

Bryan is a non-practicing lawyer, HR consultant, and legal content writer. With nearly 20 years of experience in the legal field, he has a deep understanding of family and employment laws. His goal is to provide readers with clear and accessible information about the law, and to help people succeed by providing them with the knowledge and tools they need to navigate the legal landscape. Bryan lives in Orlando, Florida.