A decision has been made—one which has thrown you on the path of divorce—placing you in unfamiliar circumstances and causing you to be unsure of not only the future, but the process itself. To help, here are some common steps you may experience along the way:
1. The Petition and Summons
The Petition, filed by either you or your spouse, will state the facts of the marriage, such as when you married, when you separated, where you are employed, how many children you have, and where you live. The Petition may be served to you or your spouse with a summons attached announcing the first court date.
2. The Response
30-45 days after service of summons
If a Petition was not filed on your behalf, then your attorney will file a Response. A Response will admit or deny all the allegations made by your spouse as well as state your own claim for dissolution (called a cross-claim or counter-claim).
3. Temporary Motions
Typically filed in the first 30-90 days of your case
While the paths of a dissolution are similar, each one has its own particular set of facts. If the facts in your case require help from your spouse with money during the course of the divorce then your attorney can file motions to ask that your spouse pay child support, maintenance, and attorney’s fees. A hearing will be held after the motions are filed and if the judge rules in your favor, your spouse will pay certain temporary amounts until trial.
Ongoing throughout your case
Discovery is conducted through written questions called interrogatories and requests for production of documents. This is where the parties will exchange information and documentation about issues such as assets, debts, custody, misconduct, and employment. Once you receive a request for information, you will have thirty days to provide the answers and/or objections.
May be set at any time during your case
A deposition is where your spouse’s attorney will ask you questions under oath with a court reporter present to record your answers (your attorney will also take your spouse’s deposition). Typically this will take place in an attorney’s office and will usually last 2-4 hours. Prior to the deposition, your attorney will discuss the deposition process including typical questions that are asked, what to wear, and what to expect.
6. Settlement Conference
May be set at any time during your case
After starting the process for divorce, you may find that you and your spouse agree on many of the terms for the divorce (how to split property, who will pay what debt, when parenting time will occur, etc.). If so, the time is right for a settlement conference. During a settlement conference you and your spouse will sit in different rooms of the same office and work with your attorneys to come to an agreement.
Typically six months to one year after the Petition is filed
Trial is held in front of a judge at the courthouse where the Petition was filed. You will sit at a table next to your attorney. Each party will present their case which includes testimony from you, your spouse, and any witnesses who are called to testify as well as other evidence substantiating/negating any allegations, income, debt, and assets. A dissolution trial typically will last for about one day.
Typically about 1-2 weeks after the Trial
Once the trial has concluded, the judge will consider the evidence and issue a written order. This order will determine how the property of the marriage is divided, who is responsible for what debt, if any on-going payments need to be made (child support, maintenance), and how parenting time will be structured.
You have now completed the basic dissolution process and are divorced from your spouse. Remember, the journey to a divorce can be scary, unfamiliar, and daunting. Don’t go through the process alone. Call MTSE and ask to speak to one of our experienced family law attorneys. We will be happy to be your guide through this process.