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 the most beneficial thing for you. Contested divorce cases tend to involve four distinct stages: (1) preliminary pleadings filed; (2) discovery and appraisals; (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 Service Processor, 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 meet with the judge to have a decision on temporary custody, child support, possession of the homestead 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, a Temporary Orders Hearing and the Case is Positioned for Meaningful Settlement Discussions
Once we have the discovery phase completed, we position your case for settlement. We might try making a global settlement offer or sitting down with the other side to discuss various settlement options. 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 Mediation, a Parenting Conference, a Court-Appointed Advisor, Alternative Dispute Resolution and a Trial Date. We may also have a Pre-Trial Temporary Orders Hearing. This is an opportunity to ask the Court to order certain reliefs, such as parenting time with the children, child support and spousal maintenance, while you await trial and a Final Decree. If we are able to reach a settlement that is fair and equitable, our lawyers will draft a Consent Decree and a Property Settlement Agreement . This agreement outlines 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 Your Case Cannot Be Settled We Take it To Trial
If we are unable to resolve your case, we prepare for trial. The length of the trial depends on the number of issues involved in 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 spousal maintenance issues.