Most who decide to divorce make the mistake of not familiarizing themselves with exactly what that means legally. Emotions rule our decision to divorce but legality rules what will happen once the decision to divorce is made.
I urge you to study the divorce laws of your state. To learn what the divorce process is like in your state and to arm yourself with the knowledge needed to protect yourself during the legal divorce process.
Below is a brief outline of what the divorce process looks like. The steps you will take during the process will be dictated by your state’s divorce laws and the court within which you file for a divorce. You can get an idea though of what to expect during the divorce process from these steps.
File for divorce: You will have to complete this process with the help of your divorce attorney. If you find it a better option to file for divorce yourself, you can it do so by going to the courthouse. If you use an attorney he/she will take care of this step. The only thing required of you will be any documents your attorney will need to get the process started.
Temporary hearing: Once the divorce petition is filed the court will set a date for a hearing that will deal with any temporary orders to be followed until there is a final order of divorce.
During the temporary hearing a temporary agreement would be made to set things in proper order. During the temporary hearing issues in regard to division of pension benefits, spousal support, child custody, marital debts, visitation and property distribution are settled.
Mediation for the couple: In some states mediation is required if a divorcing couple is unable to come to an agreement. During mediation things or issues are settled on equitable distribution basis. You would have to make a list of all the items, which you feel should be divided. The article, Ten Tips to Ease Your Divorce: Mediate, Don’t Litigate will explain the process of mediation
Pre-trial for the couple: During the process of pre-trial, you have to make a list of witnesses and evidence which would prove things in your favor should you go to divorce court. During this process it would be determined if your case would be moving further for the trial session. If you do go to divorce court below is a list of “thing” you can expect to happen.
- Discovery: “Discovery” is a legal mechanism designed for gathering information about either party to the divorce.There are five steps to the discovery process. Although states and their laws may vary during the discovery process, the five steps below are common and will probably become a part of your divorce.
- Disclosures: Every state has rules of civil procedure and the way disclosure is conducted is determined by those rules. Attorneys for both parties request certain items from the other party. The list of items is sent to the other side and they must respond within thirty days.
- Interrogatories: This is a list of questions that the attorneys send to the opposing side. Most states set limits on how many questions and the response time is thirty days.
- Admissions of Fact: This is a written list of facts that is directed at the other party to the divorce. The party receiving the list of facts is asked to either admit to or deny each listed fact.
- Request for Production: This is a legal mechanism used to obtain documents such as bank statements, statements of income or any documents the attorney feels will benefit his client. The party receiving a request for production is supposed to respond with the documents within thirty days. This part of the process can become a major obstacle to a swift divorce. It seems to be human nature to not want to turn over personal information and many times delay tactics are used at this part of the process.
- Depositions: During depositions attorneys will take sworn testimony from the opposing party and any witnesses involved. Anything said during a deposition can be used in court should an agreement not be met and you end up in divorce court.
Divorce Court: During this process the case would be presented in the court, witnesses would be called and questioned. During trial evidence would be taken into consideration and the case would be decided by the judge.
The idea of going to divorce court is frightening. It is something you should avoid at all expense. Not because the experience is bad BUT once you end up in divorce court you give a judge the right to decide for you how marital assets will be divided, how child custody will be handled, how much child support will be required…all things most of us want desperately to maintain control over.
No one wants anyone telling them how often they can see their children or whether their home will be sold. I urge you to participate in the mediation process openly and honestly and that your expectations not be too high. If you are angry with your soon to be ex you need to remember that we live in the days of “no-fault” divorce laws. You can’t use the courts to punish or make him pay. Attempting to do so will only mean a lose/lose situation for you and him and more than likely a negative financial impact for you.