The divorce process starts when someone files a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. The Petition will include information regarding your demands for custody, time-sharing, child support, alimony and the equitable distribution of assets. Once served with the papers, the other side might file a counter-petition saying that they also want a divorce, as well as custody, visitation and child support. Next, there must be an exchange of financial information, such as bank statements, credit card statements, investment statements, records pertaining to properties or automobiles that you own, assets, liabilities, insurances and other things of that nature. If you are asking a judge to divide the marital property, then the judge needs to have a complete picture of what makes up the marital estate.
If there are issues that need to be addressed while the divorce is pending, then we can ask the judge for “temporary” relief. Once financial records are exchanged, you would expect informal settlement negotiations to begin between the lawyers. Alternatively, formal negotiations might occur through a third-party mediator. If we can resolve the case at mediation, then that’s terrific; if we cannot, then we will tell the judge and request a trial date.
The discovery phase involves the exchange of financial records and lasts until just before the trial begins. It involves demanding records, issuing subpoenas and taking depositions of witnesses who may testify. We conduct investigations, carrying out due diligence and get a clear picture of the entire marital estate and the parties involved. We would then get our trial date and work towards preparing for trial.
The parties or the judge may decide that we could benefit from mediation. If we settle at mediation, a written agreement would be drawn up. In divorce cases, a settlement agreement must be in writing to be enforceable. That written agreement is signed by everyone and presented to the judge. Assuming the judge finds it acceptable, you will be granted a final judgment for dissolution of marriage.
The judge would probably be very happy that you were able to resolve it without the necessity of a trial. Mediation is typically better for both the parents and children, and is typically more cost-effective than litigation. However, if the other side will not agree to anything that is fair at mediation, then there may not be anything to lose by going to trial.