One of the ways we help our clients deal with getting through their divorce cases is to help them understand the basic divorce process. For most people having an understanding of the process seems to help them, not only with their understanding of their options, but with their comfort level as well.
Every divorce starts with the filing of a Petition for Divorce. This document is usually relatively simple, and basically notifies the court that the filing party (the petitioner) wants a divorce, and provides basic notice of the petitioner’s allegations. The filing of this petition triggers the start of the sixty (60) day waiting (cooling off) period. This petition also has to be provided to the opposing party (the respondent). In an agreed matter the petition will often simply be delivered to the respondent, but in most contested matters the petition will be served (hand delivered by a process server) upon the respondent.
Oftentimes the petition will include a notice of a hearing for temporary orders. A hearing for temporary orders is usually requested in cases where the parties have critical issues they need resolved by the court. Some examples of issues that are frequently heard for temporary orders would be, temporary custody, temporary child support, who will continue to live in the marital home, who will pay what bills, and possibly temporary spousal maintenance. Depending on the issues at bar, these hearings can be very trying for the parties.
Final Decree of Divorce
At the end of every divorce matter will be a Final Decree of Divorce. This is the final court order that outlines the parties’ rights and duties. If there are children, the final decree will outline their rights and duties relating to the child(ren). If there is property the decree will outline the division of assets and liabilities between the parties. Exactly when the decree is drafted depends on the the progress of the case. Sometimes the parties will have a proposed decree drafted so they can begin negotiating about the details of their case. If the parties can reach an agreement on a proposed decree, that decree can be signed by the parties and presented to the court for approval, and the case will be over. Sometimes the parties won’t even draft a decree until after a final trial where the court has made a ruling from the bench to become part of the order.
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) & Mediation
Many parties will attend some form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) or mediation (which is the most popular type of ADR). In fact, the court often requires ADR before the parties are permitted to proceed to trial. ADR is intended to help the parties resolve their case, or at least reduce the issues for trial. Most cases that reach mediation will be settled at mediation, but the parties are not required to settle, and many people will leave the mediator’s office to prepare for trial.
Ultimately if the parties cannot reach an agreement to settle their matter before trial, the case will reach either a trial before a judge, or before a jury. Most people have some idea what a trial looks like. While the movies are usually a bit more dramatic and exciting than a real trial, often a trial will look much like what you’ve seen in the movies. Your lawyer will make arguments in your favor, present witnesses on your behalf, and cross examine the witnesses offered by your spouse. The key issue in a trial is someone will hear your case and decide your case. This simple fact is probably the primary reason that mediation is so successful.
This simple outline is intended only to provide a simplified overview of the divorce process. What is required for your case may be different. Contact one of our divorce lawyers to discuss your case, and your options. Let us help you make sense of it all. (210) 714-2425.