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Divorce Proceedings

STEP 1: STARTING THE PROCEEDINGS


You must first start with filing a complaint. The complaint alerts the courts and other spouse that the divorce has been initiated. It may also show the terms that are being requested for instance, child support, property division, etc. Your spouse must be served the papers. In some jurisdictions, this can be done by Sheriff. Otherwise, you will need to use a private server to have the divorce papers served. Neither you, nor anyone related to the case, may serve the papers. After service, your spouse usually has 21 days to respond to the suit. If he/she fails to answer the complaint, a default may be entered against him/her. Note, that when the divorce is a "consent" divorce, both the complaint and your spouse's answer may be filed at the same time.

STEP 2: TEMPORARY ORDERS


Also known as a Pendente Lite motion. The term "pendent lite" means "during the course of the litigation." Both parties have the right to request temporary orders from the Court that outlines who pays the bills, who is responsible for the children, inappropriate conduct etc. These orders will put in place temporary "solutions" until a final divorce hearing is done. The terms are subject to change at the final merits hearing. A pendent lite motion is commonly filed at the same time the original complaint is submitted, although depending on the jurisdiction, a separate filing may be required.

STEP 3: DISCOVERY


Discovery is the legal process in which each party in a divorce is entitled to gather information (discover) facts about the other party. This can be very costly if one or both parties are not reluctant to provide information, or attempt to hide bad acts, or assets. Generally, discovery is divided into two parts: (1) interrogatories, admissions and request for production, and (2) depositions. If you fail to answer discover demands, the Court can find you in contempt, leading to fines, sanctions, and even a judgment against you in the underlying matter.

STEP 4: MEDIATION


Usually, prior to the end of discovery, you will be asked to attend mediation. During mediation, a trained advocate will attempt to get the parties to agree to a settlement, and end the divorce with an agreed disposition. Mediation is not as common in divorce cases as in civil cases, but many judges still require it in order to move on to the trial phase.

STEP 5: DIVORCE COURT


If the issues are not are not settled by summary judgment (rare) or mediation, a trial date is set. Spouses will have the opportunity to argue their case before a judge. The courts will then determine a proper outcome for the divorce settlement. After the trial, the judge will issue an order settling the matter. You will be expected to carry out the orders of the court. Failure of either party to follow the order is grounds for a "show cause" motion, where the Court can punish the individual who is not following the order.

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