Divorce & Separation
Getting a divorce is a difficult time for every person involved, and a basic understanding of the process can help to ease anxiety. However, it is important to remember that every divorce is different. Discuss the facts of your case with your attorney so that he or she can help you to understand how your particular case will proceed.
The following are generalized benchmarks for a contested divorce:
- First, one spouse must retain an attorney. The attorney will draft a Complaint based on the facts of the case. The Complaint alleges grounds for divorce, states how the spouse wants to settle the marital estate financially, and may include a proposed Parenting Plan, detailing the filing spouse's proposal for division of parenting time for the parties' children.
- The attorney will then file the Complaint with the appropriate Court and ensure the Complaint is then served on the other party.
- The served spouse must file an Answer, admitting or denying all the allegations in the Complaint, in most cases, the served spouse will also file a Counter-Complaint, suing the other spouse for divorce. The Counter-Complaint will contain the served spouse's proposal for the dissipation of the marital estate and for parenting time with the children, if applicable.
- The parties then exchange information in a process called "discovery." This information helps in determining property and debt division, and, where applicable, division of parenting time, child support and alimony. At any point in this process, the parties may reach a settlement, either through mediation or the attorneys. If a settlement is reached, the attorneys draft the appropriate documents and submit them to the court for approval by the judge.
- If a settlement cannot be reached, the parties will go to trial. At trial, the parties will each present evidence and arguments to support their positions. At the conclusion of the trial, the judge will grant the divorce. The judge will also decide how to divide assets and debts and any questions of alimony, child support and parenting time. Either spouse may appeal the judge's decision to a higher court, but reversal of a trial judge's decision is not very typical.
- If your divorce is uncontested (meaning you and your spouse have agreed on how to settle all aspects of your divorce) the process is typically shorter and much simpler. Your attorney will be able to explain the differences between contested and uncontested divorce to you.
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