A Timeline of a Divorce

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The purpose of this article is providing important information for individuals seeking legal counsel during or before divorce.  This information will contain pertinent questions to pose to your divorce attorney, as well as other items for individuals to consider during the divorce process.

The Start of Divorce Proceedings

Divorce proceedings begin by filing a document known as a complaint.  In a divorce case, there a wide number of grounds that these complaints can be filed upon.  Commonly, however, divorces are filed on the grounds of irretrievable breakdown of a marriage, or irreconcilable differences.  The second most commonly used grounds for complaints are known as cruel and abusive treatment by one’s spouse.  Depending on the situation, however, there are a wide number of grounds for divorce that may have arisen during the course of the marriage. An individual’s choice of grounds for filing a divorce claim may influence the length of time it takes to obtain a divorce.

Following the Complaint for Divorce filing, a divorce court will issue a summons and a copy of the complaint to your spouse.  Generally, a divorce attorney will arrange this, and the papers will be delivered through a process server, or the spouse, if agreement, will elect to voluntarily agree to “accept service”. 

In the event your spouse, and not you, filed the complaint first, an attorney will prepare, produce, and file an Answer to the claim, as well as a possible counterclaim requesting for divorce as well.

Divorce Case Pre-Trial Motions

Motions are simply requests made in writing to the Court.  Motions may be filed requesting relief from the Courts regarding a specific problem regarding your divorce case.  Common examples of motions made before or during a divorce trial, before the final hearing, include:

  • Temporary restraining orders
  • Temporary spousal support
  • Temporary custody of dependants
  • Payment of legal counsel fees

In addition, other motions may prove applicable in certain instances.  Generally, clients must appear during pretrial motions regarding the custody of children or financial support issues.  Orders given by the court regarding pre-trial motions are known as temporary orders.  Temporary orders are judge decisions that will stay in effect until the final hearing of the divorce case.

Discovery in a Divorce Case

During the discovery phase of a divorce case, attorneys will attempt to ascertain all of the information, facts, and evidence that will be presented in the divorce case during a trial or the final hearing.  Important information will include items that are economic and non-economic.  This period is important, as it will provide all of the information needed to present sound legal arguments, present settlement options, or even complete a fair case and final hearing in front of the Court. The length of time needed for the discovery period of a trial will be influenced by factors, such as:

  • Resistance from the other party
  • Problems in obtaining the information requested
  • The general complexity of the information needed
  • Other obligations legal counsel may have at a given time
  • Expert testimony and evidence requirements for parts of a case

Generally speaking, the length of all aspects of a divorce case is entirely dependent on the willingness of both divorcing parties to cooperate with the divorce proceedings.  Often, trying to make haste or set certain deadlines for a divorce case will be a grave disservice to your legal options and the probability of obtaining a favorable outcome.  Especially regarding the discovery phase, attorneys must be allotted a large amount of time to ensure every aspect of information is gleaned regarding the case. 

At times, certain time statutes of may prevent the expedition of the divorce proceedings.  One example will include your attorney requesting information from a spouse, such as for producing documents to review.  In these cases, the spouse will have thirty days to comply with this request, per the Rules of Domestic Relations.  According to law, contested no-fault divorce complaints must present on the Court’s records for a time period of at least six months prior to going to trial. After the divorce hearing, there are mandatory waiting periods before a divorce is final.  Rules and statutes such as these are not within a divorce attorney’s control.

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