If you are considering filing for divorce in the near future, you’ve no doubt skimmed articles in magazines, or scoured the internet on that subject … this is probably why you are reading this blog post right now. Suffice it to say that filing for divorce and the time until the decree is rendered, can be a long and painful journey for most. Some couples are able to go through the process amicably, but, for most couples, it is a lot of clawing and scratching until it is finally over.
You may have questions before undertaking this big step in your life. Peruse this article, or others, and then consider consulting with a top notch divorce attorney right here in New Jersey to represent your interests and guide you through the legal process. That attorney will be happy to answer any and all of your questions, but, in the interim, you might be able to find some answers to common questions about divorce below:
I’ve made my decision to file for divorce, so what is my next step? During the initial consultation with a divorce attorney, you will be asked if you have already sought marriage counseling or gone through a trial separation. You should be aware that your attorney will need to delve into your current financial situation, so be sure to have the figures available, and backup paperwork to substantiate any claims your attorney will be making on your behalf as to alimony and/or child support. The meeting is more than just a meet-and-greet, because your attorney will be able to analyze your financial situation in order to prepare an assert schedule and proposed schedules for alimony payments and/or suggested child custody and visitation schedules.
How soon may the divorce process begin? Be advised that usually one person seeks a divorce and goes to an attorney who files a Complaint for Divorce which is served on your spouse. This legal document merely sets out the names of the parties and requests that the judge grant a dissolution of the marriage. At that time, you will become the “petitioner” and your spouse will become the “respondent” and the time thus begins tolling for your spouse to respond to the Complaint for Divorce – thirty days to be exact. Separate counsel is encouraged to ensure your interests are represented.
Will I get a hearing date for the divorce right away? No, the matter must go through the family courts before proceeding to the divorce decree. The discovery process must take place. This is where attorneys from each side will seek information from the other side by using legal questions (a/k/a Interrogatories or Admissions of Fact) or requesting documents (a/k/a Request for Production of Documents). The fact-gathering and exchange of information process may take several months and there will be a flurry of legal paperwork during this time. Sometimes the process is smooth and routine, but sometimes it becomes contentious with the respective attorneys appearing before the judge on multiple occasions. Sometimes sworn testimony (referred to as a deposition) must be taken to substantiate facts and move the process along.
So after the discovery process is done, will we receive a divorce decree date? No, not yet. The court may suggest an alternative method to speed up the divorce proceeding, such as mediation. Mediation is merely a process where a court-appointed attorney will act as an intermediary to attempt to negotiate a settlement between the parties without the need to proceed to court for a divorce proceeding. If mediation doesn’t solve the pending issues, a divorce proceeding is next on the agenda and will be scheduled by the court.
What does the divorce proceeding entail? If mediation was not successful, then all unresolved issues, and evidence gathered during the pendency of the case, will be brought before the judge, and the divorce decree will be rendered. Recommendations for alimony and child support as well as a schedule for visitation as to the minor children will be finalized at this hearing and made a permanent part of the court’s records.
What if I am dissatisfied with the outcome of the divorce decree and schedules issued by the court? Either party may ask their counsel to appeal the judge’s decision, so a motion to appeal the judge’s order and request a new divorce hearing will be requested. Unfortunately, the same judge will preside at the motion hearing and likely will not overturn the original decree, and the matter will need to be appealed to the state’s appellate court.
Hopefully these questions and answers respond to any niggling doubts about the divorce court process and set your mind at ease if you are about to become a litigant in the family court. A divorce attorney can put your mind at ease and assist you in any further questions you might have. Why not seek a consult with a New Jersey divorce attorney today?