Welcome to The Houser Law Firm service series, where we discuss specific family law matters and how we can assist you through your particular family law issue.
This article will discuss the issue of divorce. A divorce proceeding can be an overwhelming and difficult time, and there are many issues that may arise during the process. It is wise to obtain counsel to navigate the divorce process, anticipate the legal issues that may arise and develop a legal strategy accordingly. Below is information regarding the process of divorce to give you a better understanding of what you can expect to occur during your case.
A dissolution of marriage can be either an “uncontested divorce” or a “contested divorce.”
In either case, the Petitioner asks the Court for the divorce, and the Respondent receives and answers the Petition. The Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is filed with the Clerk of Court and sent to the Respondent via service of process. The Respondent is then required to file a written response to the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the Clerk of Court.
There are times when two parties have agreed to move forward with a divorce, and determine the divorce terms together. In this situation, one party will meet with Ms. Houser and provide the terms of the agreement between the parties regarding issues such as equitable distribution, alimony, child support, timesharing, etc. Ms. Houser then drafts all the necessary paperwork to file the case, including the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. She provides drafts of the Financial Affidavit (F.A.) and, if there are minor children, a draft Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) Affidavit. These documents are required pleadings that must be filed prior to the final hearing. The parties will fill out the drafts and return them to Ms. Houser for finalization. Once the initial paperwork is complete, Ms. Houser will draft the agreement between the parties to ensure the terms of the agreement are accurately articulated. Both parties must also complete a parenting class. Finally, the Petitioner must attend the final divorce hearing to present the agreement to the judge for entry. Prior to the final hearing, Ms. Houser will prepare her client for the hearing, which includes providing the questions she will ask during the hearing. At the final hearing, the Petitioner will provide testimony to the Court regarding the marriage and terms of the divorce to the judge. The judge will then sign the agreement, which officially renders the parties divorced. The final hearing is very quick, only lasting about 3 minutes or so. It is also an informal hearing, in that it takes place in chambers, rather than a courtroom.
In a "contested divorce", both spouses cannot or will not agree on the terms of the divorce, such as division of marital property, marital debt and/or issues involving minor children from the marriage. After the Summons and Petition for Dissolution of Marriage are served on the Respondent, the Respondent has 20 days to file a written response with the Clerk of Court. Once a written response is filed, the parties will exchange financial discovery, or mandatory disclosure. When the discovery process is completed, the parties are required to attend mediation. If the parties come to an agreement at mediation, the agreement is signed, the litigation ends and the Petitioner attends the Final Hearing. If the parties do not come to an agreement, the case moves forward to trial.
If you have made the decision to divorce your spouse, or would just like to determine your options, Ms. Houser would be happy to discuss your situation with you during a complimentary consultation. Click below to schedule your consultation today.