What does a Divorce Case Look like from Start to Finish?

Let’s suppose you are facing a divorce and that you have reached that point in your relationship with your spouse that you want to end the marriage. What steps exactly will you be facing?

  1. First, there is the petition. That document should contain all that you want to sue for, such as custody, visitation schedules, child support, medical support, temporary support, post divorce maintenance or alimony, division of community property, request for reimbursement, attorneys fees and maybe even a name change.   This is just a sampling of what can be found in your petition. 
  2. Your counsel may seek a temporary restraining order (TRO) signed by the assigned judge and will seek to have that order and the petition served on the opposing party.  These documents are attached to what are called citations.  These documents and the citations will be served on your opposing spouse and then the process server will file copies of the citations with the court to prove that the opposing party was physically served. This is where it can get complicated.  Getting the other party served can be very time consuming and oftentimes you will need to have the opposing party served by substitute service or service via publication.  Any services other than personal service will require a judge’s permission. Getting the other party served can sometimes take weeks, even months!!
  3. You may want to have some temporary orders so you should ask for them as well in your petition. These temporary orders are designed to “calm the waters”, to establish who gets the temporary use of certain community assets, who dictates where the children will live during the divorce,  whether there will be temporary support for the children and for you or your spouse and what debts will be paid and by whom will they be paid.  A temporary orders hearing could be addressed in the TRO or set without the use of a TRO.  It all depends on your counsel’s perception of the seriousness of the level of discord and/or the need for support and for care of the community estate. 
  4. Once the other party is served then you will attend a temporary orders hearing and work out terms and conditions of a temporary order, either by agreement or following a contested hearing. 
  5. Next comes getting ready for a final hearing.   This phase of the case will depend on whether the final is going to be by agreement or contested.  This is where the costs can vary greatly. This phase of the case can take a short time if there is an agreement or months if you anticipate a disputed final.  For example, getting ready for a contested custody case before a jury could take up to one year!!
  6. Then comes the final hearing, whether contested or by agreement. The length of the trial depends on the gravity of the dispute or the extent of formal agreement. The hearing could last minutes or days, depending on the extent of the subject matter.
  7. After the hearing before the judge or jury there will be a judgment. Many clients fail to recognize that this part of the case can take weeks, even months, to get a final decree acceptable to the parties, their attorneys and the court. Also there are many documents that are needed to pass title to property, to start the collection of child support and to divide investments and retirement benefits. This part of the case is so critical!!

We have done 1,000’s of cases both agreed and heavily contested. We can help you through this complicated journey, start to finish.   Please email us directly or call us directly at: (915) 593-6600 or (915) 256-0579 for assistance!  Don’t go it alone!! There are far too many details you could miss!  Standing by for your call!

Doug Smith