Most people think of divorce as an event. Actually it is more like a process. If you cannot reach an agreement with your spouse on various issues like children, alimony and property division, then you can ask a judge to hold a trial and make a decision. This is called litigation. You begin litigation by filing a complaint for divorce at the county courthouse. Filing a lawsuit does not have to stop settlement negotiations. Litigation and settlement often proceed on parallel tracks.


A divorce has a beginning, middle and end, or three phases.

Phase One – Preliminary Legal Procedures

The beginning of your case consists of preliminary legal procedures. These include meeting threshold requirements, filing your pleadings, giving notice to the other side, appearing at a Scheduling Conference and other various conferences and hearings.

Phase Two – Discovery

Discovery, which is Phase Two, consists of rules and methods by which you discover information about your spouse’s case, and vice versa. The purpose of discovery is to avoid surprises at trial and to encourage settlements.

Phase Three – Trial

The trial, which is Phase Three, is the dramatic climax of a lawsuit.


It takes about a year or more to litigate a case to completion. Add another six months if there is an appeal.