If you are considering divorce, then the only knowledge you have is likely from reading information on the internet or meeting with your attorney. Once you understand the process though, you can get a better idea of where you are headed. We are here to walk you through the process:
Step 1: Meet with an Attorney – When you have finally made the big decision that it is time to file for a divorce, the very first thing you must do is meet with an attorney. Many attorneys offer free or affordable consultations, so it is always wise to at least meet with an attorney.
Step 2: File the Case – Once you have found your lawyer of choice, then you must file the actual lawsuit with your local circuit court. This typically includes filing a Petition for Divorce, financial statements and a filing fee.
Step 3: Serve the Pleadings – After the case is filed, the Court will prepare a summons which is an Order for your spouse to respond to the lawsuit within 30 days. This summons and the other paperwork you filed must then be formally served by a sheriff or process server to your spouse before the 30 day clock starts.
Step 4: Wait for Responsive Pleadings – After service, there is then a lull where you wait for the other side to respond. If they respond in those 30 days then the ball gets rolling with the litigation process. If they do not respond, then you can request the Judge grant a default Judgment.
Step 5: Settlement Conference – A settlement conference, also called a status conference or case management conference in some counties, is generally going to be your first Court date. This is a meeting with the Judge where the attorneys for both sides explain the details of the case and get feedback from the Judge on the various issues. There will typically be 3-6 settlement conferences set during the course of the case before you get to a trial, assuming your case does not resolve before that by settlement.
Step 6: Discovery – Upon completion of the first Court date, parties will generally trade documents and subpoena records, such as pay stubs, tax returns, medical records, etc.
Step 7: PDL Hearing – At any point after responsive pleadings are filed, but typically earlier in the case rather than later, either party can file a PDL Motion, which is a Motion/Hearing for temporary custody and support to be set up during the case. PDL Motions typically resolve/settle without an actual hearing as Judges do not want to hear the issues of the case twice.
Step 8: Depositions – As your case gets closer to trial, it is common for the attorneys to take a deposition of the opposing party. A deposition is an out-of-court meeting where a party testifies under oath with a court reporter present. The transcript from the deposition can be used at trial to make sure your answers to specific questions are consistent.
Step 9: Trial/Settlement – Any divorce can be settled and typically is settled somewhere along the way. That being said, some cases cannot be settled and the case is then set for trial. Trial is like what you see in the tv shows. You get to testify and present evidence. However, in divorce cases, there is not jury so the Judge will be making all the decisions.
Step 10: Post-Trial Motions/Appeal – Many parties that have a trial think that is the end of the case. However, if you do choose to go to trial, then it will typically be at least a month before a Judge issues a decision/judgment for your case and then parties can file post-trial motions that may not be heard for up to 4 months after the Judgment is issued…..and then parties can file an Appeal, which is another post for another day.
*The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely upon advertisements.