Timeline of a Divorce: Part Two

Continued from page 1

Prior to the court granting a divorce or entering any financial order regarding the case, both spousal parties must finish a financial statement form provided by Probate and Family Court.  During a divorce case, the financial statement provided by the Probate and Family Court is the single most important document filed in a divorce case.  Basically, the form provides the Court with all pertinent information regarding both entities’ financial picture, including income, expenses, assets, and liabilities. 

Probate Court Financial Statements are required to be signed by both spouses personally, while under the penalty of perjury.  For this reason, it is vital for these documents to entail exhaustive and accurately reported information.  Examinations regarding this document and the statements made within may be performed by both the Court, as well in depositions.  A divorce attorney can assist individuals in ensuring that all of the information on the form is accurately filed out, as well as helping the individual client locate the necessary information as well.  Most important in this document is to be entirely honest, accurate, and without any doubt. 

Reaching a Decision in a Divorce Case

In some divorce cases, attorneys will be able to reach a settlement between the two parties, which will be recorded in a Separation Agreement.  The Separation Agreement will be sent to the Court for approval.  In assessing and approving the Separation Agreement, the Court will look at the financial statements submitted by both parties, to ensure that the agreement is fair and reasonable.  Generally, expect in the cases of obvious inequality, the Court will include all of the agreements reached in the Judgment of Divorce.

In the event a negotiated settlement is not reachable, a case will be slated for trial.  During a divorce trial, a judge will preside over the case, listening to evidence presented by both parties.  Following the trial, the judge will make a decision regarding support, visitation, child custody, alimony, division assets, and any other points of contention between the two parties.  In the judgment, the judge must abide by specific legal statutes and factors regarding the case.  Additionally, the Court will refer to precedents in other cases to interpret statutes. Even with these, each case largely turns on its own facts. In addition, individuals may appeal decisions in divorce cases; however, these appeals rarely prove successful.

Attorney Fees in a Divorce Case

Following selecting a given divorce attorney, clients will receive a fee-retainer document describing in the detail the hourly rates and other billing information.  In most cases, individuals will be required to offer a retainer, which is a sum of money paid at the beginning of the case.  It is important to understand and discuss any concerns regarding fees before signing the fee-retainer agreement. You should read over the retainer agreement carefully, since this document sets in detail the specifics of the understanding you have reached with me about responsibilities, legal fees and costs. This is a legal contract. If you have any questions about the retainer agreement, consult with an attorney prior to signing the agreement.

Although it may be possible to obtain legal fee compensation from a spouse during or at the conclusion of a divorce case, individuals will remain legally bound to pay legal fees and expenses regardless of this outcome. 

Contacting the Divorce Attorney

At times, the attorney handling your case may not be available to consult with you immediately for a litany of reasons, including handling other clients’ cases or being in Court. If the call is regarding an emergency matter, however, arrangements can be made to ensure these calls are given an immediate priority and an attorney will get back with you as soon as possible.

Conclusion

The information presented above is only meant to be a cursory outline of some of the general aspects of a given divorce case.  In reality, each divorce case is extremely unique, requiring solutions to very different problems and issues.  For further information regarding your specific divorce case, please discuss them with a divorce attorney today. I truly have your best interests at heart and truly want to help you understand how your case will be handled.

Back to Part One: Pre-Trial Motions and Discovery

 

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