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The Process of Divorce: Common Questions

Published on March 30th, 2018

What do you need to know from your attorney about your divorce and how do you ask to find it out

It is likely the toughest moment in your life where you are not dealing with medical doctors; it is time to go forward with a divorce. You need to find out the myriad of things that have to be done, what can happen good or bad, and what can be done to make the good happen and limit the bad. There are five major issues to discuss with your attorney when they are assisting you in dealing with a divorce.  Here are some tips on how to ask the questions you need answers from your attorney to get you through this tough time.

HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE?

This is often the first question any person facing a divorce wants answered. The way to the best and clearest answer from your attorney is to try and focus on what issues you have. If you have no children and no major joint financial assets or debts, the case should go quickly. The questions to ask are about what could complicate things: one of the possibilities is that your spouse could seek maintenance (formerly alimony) which is a sore point for person facing paying support to a person you feel betrayed by. Helping you get prepared for this financial burden is where your attorney is critical to your financial and emotional well being. Another issue arises where you have children and your spouse is convinced that you are a danger to your children and will fight tooth and nail to keep you away. This is where your attorney should be open with you about the process of overcoming a system designed to be slow and thorough. It is the most frustrating issue that drags a case on and on. If you and your spouse have significant assets and debts the case can take longer due to the need to allocate assets or responsibilities.

WHAT DO I DO ON MY OWN TO HELP COMPLETE THE CASE? 

Your attorney will be preparing the court documents called pleadings in the case and be there to advise you while contacting the other side. There will be some things you need to do as part of the case. If you have children you will be required to attend a divorced parents’ parenting class and possibly a mediation session before the court will enter a final judgment of parental allocation. The class is not an involved or large commitment of your time. The mediation session is a way to meet with your spouse and a mediator to try and resolve parenting issues. The phrase “parental allocation” sounds odd; but it is what we used to call child custody. Another thing you will have to do as part of the case is answering financial questions and the gathering of financial records to help your own attorney and to produce to the other side as part of what is called “discovery”; which is the pre-trial exchange of information which is required by the Supreme Court Rules. The information exchange also makes settlements more possible which shortens your case and reduces your financial burden. When you are doing “discovery” and you don’t understand any one of the questions or are not sure of what to bring for a records request don’t be afraid to speak to your attorney as the attorney will be able to guide you through the question or help you with what records to produce.

WILL I GET TO BE WITH MY CHILDREN?

This often the most heartbreaking part of the divorce; going from seeing your children every day to a “parenting time schedule”. The phrase “parenting time” is a mouthful for what we used to call visitation. There will be moments of negotiation and possibly hearings on setting the “parenting time schedule” where you and the attorney attempt to get you as much time with your children as can be done by agreement or ordered by the court. This where your communication with your attorney as to what you want and what the court can do is critical. Never be afraid to ask about what things the court considers in setting a “parenting time schedule”.

WHAT DO I HAVE TO GIVE MY SPOUSE?

This is something for the first consultation or after the discovery questions are answered and the financial records produced to send to the other side. Issues here will likely be maintenance, debt allocation, and property allocation. The longer your marriage is the greater likelihood of an award of maintenance to the spouse who is not “the economically dominant party”; the one who makes less on their own. The specifics of maintenance are such an involved subject that they would need their own article. Pensions or other Retirement assets that grew during the marriage are subject to division. The marital residence is also subject to the division of its equity. Have an open discussion with your attorney about how to balance the property versus the marital debts which are just as subject to division as property. Trading a pension for equity in the residence is one example. Or lower maintenance in exchange for taking more marital debt is another example. If you have ideas, share them with your attorney so they can be used for your benefit.

WHEN IS IT REALLY FINAL?

The goal is the entry of a Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage dissolving the bonds of matrimony between the parties. There should be a Marital Settlement Agreement to resolve allocation of assets and debts. If you have children a Judgment of Parental Allocation and a Parenting Plan are also made part of the record. There may be a few post Judgment details such as deeding the marital residence to one party by the other, signing of car titles to each other, and any specific orders on retirement assets. Ask your attorney about these last steps to close this chapter of your life.

As we said earlier divorce is likely the toughest moment in your life but the right attorney can make it the least painful it can be. Consulting an attorney on any matter where the Courts or Corporations are involved is your best move.

Thanks for reading,
A Law Office of Crosby and Associates, P.C.

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