The divorce action is initiated by serving a Summons upon the other party (the defendant), briefly stating the grounds upon which the divorce is sought, and a brief outline of what you (as the plaintiff) are seeking (the divorce itself, as well as items such as division of properties, custody of the children, interim support, and legal fees). You then have up to 120 days to serve the papers on the other party. The defendant is required to respond with a Notice of Appearance within 35 days and an Appearance within 30 days.
After (or, occasionally, at the same time as) the Summons, the Verified Complaint is served. This describes the basis for the divorce and specific relief being sought in more detail. Once served upon the defendant, he or she has 20 days to respond. In the response, the defendant may admit or deny parts of your Complaint, and may also issue a Counterclaim against you. If the defendant agrees to go forward with the divorce -- while not necessarily agreeing with it -- he or she would sign a Defendant's Affidavit.
The Discovery Phase
If there is no Separation Agreement, or the divorce is being contested, each of the lawyers begins the Discovery Process, in which they gather as much information as possible about the facts of the case. This information can delve into issues such as custody, fault, and grounds for divorce. But in most cases, the emphasis will be on financial matters. You'll likely be asked to supply various financial documentation, and to detail in writing within a Case Information Statement all pertinent facts concerning your finances and properties. And I do mean detail! (This is where I got bogged down.)