The collaborative divorce process is not right for everyone. Every family is different, and that is why Frank’s practice handles the traditional divorce process as well. When there are trust issues, sensitive family situations and the future of your children and finances at stake, he will work to protect you through every aspect of your divorce settlement.
The following information is designed to give you a general idea of how a traditional, litigated divorce proceeds. Remember that each divorce is different and will have its own twists.
To begin a traditional, litigated divorce, one spouse files a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the court. The person who files the Petition is the "Petitioner." The Petition must then be served on the Petitioner's spouse.
After the spouse is served, that person has 30 days to file a Response to the Petitioner's Petition with the court. The person who must file the Response is called the "Respondent."
If the Respondent fails to file a Response within 30 days after being served with divorce paperwork, then the Petitioner can ask the court to proceed without the Respondent’s participation. The Petitioner prepares a judgment and submits it to the court. The Petitioner requests orders concerning custody, visitation, child support, spousal support, attorney fees, and division of property.
If the Respondent files a Response, then the case proceeds.
Normally the parties ask the Court to make decisions regarding issues during the pendency of the divorce process. These issues typically deal with issues of child custody, child visitation, child support, spousal support, attorney fees, or for a domestic violence restraining order. Although the court's decisions are only for the duration of the divorce, they are important to setting the status quo and for bargaining power. Therefore, they are often hotly contested and may take many months or years of battling in court before they are decided.
After the Respondent files their Response, the parties begin to exchange documents and other information concerning their property, income, expenses, fitness as parents, and any other relevant information. This is called "Discovery." Discovery can be in the form of depositions, through written questions, and by requests for copies of documents.
When discovery is completed, the case is set for trial. Most courts will schedule a Pre-Trial Conference before trial. In the Pre-Trial Conference, the parties and judge resolve what issues are disputed and get an idea of what the parties' positions will be in trial. The parties are often able to settle all the issues and avoid trial.
At trial, each attorney presents evidence and arguments. The judge makes orders on all unresolved issues. The judgment is prepared and approved by the divorce attorneys and then submitted to the court. Once the judge signs the judgment and the six month waiting period has elapsed, the divorce becomes final.
Even after the court signs the judgment, some orders can be modified. These include child support, custody, visitation, and usually spousal support. However, other orders can almost never be changed after the judgment is entered, these include orders dividing property, and orders awarding attorney fees.