Roadmap to Divorce: Understanding the Divorce Process
The divorce process begins when you decide to terminate your marriage and begin planning the next chapter of your life. You will want to reach out to an experienced family law attorney who will sit down with you and listen to your goals and interests. With your goals and interests in mind, the process of filing begins. The following are each of the steps you will likely take during the divorce process.
Finding the Right Attorney
You always hear horror stories of people getting bullied by their spouse’s attorney while their own attorney seemed baffled by the entire process. The truth is that choosing the right attorney will be the most important decision you make moving forward. Finding someone who is attentive, understands your situation, has asked you about your goals post-divorce, and discusses the progress of your case without requiring incessant phone calls to their office means that you have found an attorney who has your best interests at heart.
Filing for Divorce
Once your attorney understands your goals, the process of filing will begin. Before that, your attorney might ask you to go through your financial records and collect everything related to your divorce. This is especially necessary when your spouse refuses to accept the divorce. At this point, your attorney will be gathering all the information they can, including financially investigating your spouse. With these preparations in hand, your attorney will file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the court. You will be required to serve your spouse with the papers. If you cannot do this yourself, your attorney will do it for you.
Each spouse in a divorce is required to fill out a comprehensive financial disclosure affidavit. This step needs to be completed before the court will rule on any financial issues. These types of issues can be handled in mediation or as part of a collaborative divorce. However, if you feel like your spouse may be hiding assets from you, then you may want to take a more aggressive posture.
In our practice, we like to handle this as early as possible. The stability of our client’s finances is one of our top priorities.
It is typical during a divorce case for the court to place a temporary ruling on custody until the situation can be sorted out. In highly contentious divorces, custody issues are among the most difficult to resolve. Our attorneys will listen to your goals when determining the best course of action. Key issues that need to be sorted out are where the children will spend most of their time, which spouse will have legal power of attorney over the children, and how shared parenting time and visitation will work.
Another issue that must be sorted out is child support, which will depend on your spouse’s financial disclosure statements.
The Discovery Period
Discovery means that both parties are required to supply the other party with any information that they request. Discovery includes formal depositions where attorneys ask questions under oath and ask the party to provide requested documents. Failure to provide this information honestly is a criminal offense, and the court will punish a litigant who lies under oath.
Divorce Trials and Settlements
The majority of divorces do not end up in front of juries. In fact, only a tiny fraction of divorces will make it that far. Before the court will allow divorce litigation before a jury, they will meet with both attorneys to see how far apart they are and make recommendations concerning a settlement. However, the court cannot force either side to settle.
If your divorce is headed for trial, both litigants will conduct a second round of depositions. Any changes to your or your spouse’s financial situation must be brought before the court.
Typically, trials are discouraged by attorneys. Both parties to a divorce trial lose any and all control they have over the outcome. Whether the trial is right for your situation will depend heavily on whether your interests are being met by the settlement agreement. Your attorney will advise you on this consideration.
Post-Divorce and the Divorce Decree
Once all these matters are settled, you will have a “divorce decree.” The divorce decree will set in stone how finances are to be divided, child support and alimony considerations, custody of the children, and the division of assets and debts. The decree is enforceable by the court. Failure to follow the decree can result in criminal and civil penalties.
Contact an Experienced Divorce Lawyer Today
At Bellinger Law Office, we know how overwhelming the divorce process can seem. Rely on our team to guide you through your divorce while keeping your best interests at heart.