A contested divorce is likely one of the most difficult situations the parties will ever have to go through. Having a divorce lawyer on your side who is competent and who is dedicated to helping you achieve a positive result is most beneficial. Contested divorce cases tend to involve four distinct stages: (1) preliminary pleadings are filed; (2) discovery and appraisals are completed; (3) Resolution Management Conference and Temporary Orders Hearing (if necessary;) and (5) Trial. Not every case will reach each stage of the divorce process. However, if you and your spouse have some disputed issues, you can expect your case to follow a rather traditional path through the court system.
Contested Divorce Process
We Begin with the preliminary dissolution pleadings. A Petition for Dissolution, with or without children is filed. The filed pleading is served upon your spouse. Once they accept the papers, or are served by a Process Server, they will have 20 days to file a Response. If they are located out of state, they will be afforded 30 days to respond. During the first stage of a contested divorce, the preliminary case workup, we ask a lot of our clients. They must provide us with all of the information and documentation necessary for us to effectively represent them, including income information, bank statements, credit card statements, property documents and titles. All of our clients complete a thorough intake form and an Affidavit of Financial Information.
Your Spouse Will Have to Provide Us With the Information We Seek
During the second stage of a contested divorce, the "discovery stage," we ask a lot of the other side. Discovery allows us to gather information your spouse may have in their possession and determine the position they will take on the issues in the case. In the interim, we may have a Hearing before the Court to have a decision on temporary custody (legal decision-making and parenting time,) child support, exclusive possession of the marital home and spousal maintenance. Various experts may be involved in your case to assist with the valuation of property or business interests, or to perform a custody evaluation. During this time we will file your Affidavit of Financial Information and draft a Rule 49 Disclosure Statement. Often the discovery phase of a case takes several months.
The Parties Attend a Resolution Management Conference,
and the Case is Positioned for Meaningful Settlement Discussions
Once the discovery phase is completed, we position your case for settlement. We may propose a global settlement offer or attend mediation sessions with a retired judge. Meanwhile, the court will require all parties to attend a Resolution Management Conference. At this conference, we can address any outstanding discovery issues. We will also have the opportunity to ask for appraisals, mediation, a parenting conference, appointment of experts/advisors, Alternative Dispute Resolution and/or a Trial Date.
If we are able to reach a settlement that is fair and equitable, our lawyers will draft a Consent Decree, a Property Settlement Agreement, a Parenting Agreement and run Arizona Child Support Guidelines. These agreements provide a complete resolution of all issues, a full division of all assets and debts and a comprehensive parenting time schedule. all of the terms in writing and is signed by both parties in front of a notary, along with all attorneys. We when submit the agreement to the court for final approval.
If a settlement on all matters of your case can't be reached, a judge of the Superior Court will hear testimony and examine exhibits at a Trial. The length of the Trial depends on the complexity of issues of your case. Trials are expensive and emotionally draining, but sometimes very necessary. Most often, the cases we take to Trial involve disputed parenting time and/or spousal maintenance issues.