The End of a Marriage
03. Divorce & Custody
If You Think Your Marriage is Ending
Even though we are divorce attorneys, one of the first questions we will always ask you is whether there is any way that the marriage can be salvaged. We aren't counselors or therapists, but we can refer you to individuals who can help in that area.
If there is an opportunity to save your marriage, you may still seek our advice on protecting your future in the event that divorce does occur. Our representation and advice is completely confidential. We take steps to make sure that there isn't even a hint that you have hired an attorney. We can help you plan your finances and advise you on potential division of assets. We can help you understand the law regarding custody, visitation and child support so that you can ensure that your children are protected.
Many times you have been served with divorce papers or you and your spouse have already separated. In these cases divorce is likely imminent and we can guide you through the legal process. Our goal is to identify areas in which you and your spouse can agree, focusing our efforts on issues that demand litigation. Particularly if you have children, the less contentious the litigation the better.
The Legal Process
Understanding the Court System and the Law
The internet is filled with online divorce advice. Every situation is different and internet advice will likely apply to only one small part of your case. Just like many other websites, we post updates in the law that may generally apply and you are welcome to read our posts here. But that cannot replace the advice of an attorney that you have retained to represent your interests and with whom you have discussed all of the facts related to your marriage. Contact Us today for a consultation for a detailed discussion of your issues.
Filing for Divorce
A complaint for divorce begins the process. It will contain basic information about you, your spouse, and children of the marriage. The non-filing spouse will be served with a copy of the complaint and will then have time to answer (30 days). The complaint will state why the divorce is being sought. The non-filing spouse can either agree with the reasons for the divorce or deny that a divorce should occur.
If the spouses are not in agreement, the lawyers then start the discovery process. This is the legal process of gathering documents, information and witnesses as evidence. You will likely be asked certain written questions about your assets and debts, as well as questions about your marriage and children. Depositions may be taken of you, your spouse, or other witnesses. Your bank records may be reviewed. Once that both sides have gathered enough information to have a discussion about settlement, mediation is usually ordered by the Court.
Mediation is essentially a settlement conference that is directed by a neutral 3rd party with special training or skills to help spouses reach an agreement on issues related to their marriage. If the Court has ordered mediation, you are required to attend. In some cases, mediation would not be helpful and your attorney can ask the court to excuse the requirement. In most instances, mediation is helpful to identify issues and can result in a partial or full settlement of your case. For example, you and your spouse may come to an agreement about a parenting plan for your children but cannot agree on a division of assets during mediation. Having that issue resolved will save time and money, even if the whole case is not resolved.
If you have not been able to reach an agreement, your case will be set for trial in front of the judge for the county in which you filed. Each side will introduce evidence of assets and debts, as well as facts supporting each side's position on a parenting plan. The judge will listen to all of the evidence and make a decision about whether to grant the divorce and why, the division of assets and debt, and a parenting plan for children of the marriage. Judges are fair and impartial decision makers, but you and your spouse are ultimately the best judges of what is fair and best in your situation. We encourage all of our clients to consider carefully all settlement options and consider a trial as a last resort. While we are trial lawyers and would rather have a trial in every case, judges can only make decisions based on the evidence in front of them while you and your spouse know all of the things that would make the end result fair.
After a trial a judgment is entered which will end your marriage, divide property and institute a parenting plan. You may not be happy with the judgment and want to appeal the case to a higher court. An appeal is not an opportunity to have another trial, but only intended to correct errors of law that the trial judge may have made. You must file for an appeal within thirty (30) days of entry of the judgment in a divorce case.