This is a brief overview of the next steps in traditional litigated divorce. Litigation is the most common process option chosen by divorcing couples. Many divorce cases settle, however, so even if your divorce begins with this litigation process, that does not necessarily mean a trial is inevitable.
As we reviewed in last week’s blog, you will move on to the next phase after your spouse has been served with the petition for dissolution of marriage, and proof of service and financial disclosure forms have been provided to the Court.
The following steps – Mandatory Document Exchange, Discovery, Settlement Conferences, and motions for temporary orders – will not necessarily occur consecutively. These steps will depend upon which county your case is located in. These parts of the process are by no means exclusive and there may be additional steps depending on the issues in your case.
If you live in St. Louis County, City or St. Charles County, as part of your litigated divorce, you will be required to exchange certain documents related to your assets, debts, and monies expended for the benefit of your children. The requirement to exchange these documents ensures that both parties have equal access to relevant information related to the full picture of the assets and debts of marital estate as well as support for the children.
Even if the county you file in requires the mandatory exchange of documents, you still have the opportunity to request certain information and/or provide documents to one another. This is generally referred to as “discovery.” Sometimes discovery is written – subpoenas for records, interrogatories, requests to produce certain documents or to admit information; other times it is through in-person depositions of the parties or other experts.
If issues such as child custody, support or spousal support (maintenance) are highly contested, your attorney may file a special motion to obtain a temporary order from the court on those issues, pendente lite, a Latin term meaning “pending the litigation” or “during litigation.”
After a motion for a temporary order is filed, it will be scheduled for a hearing. Sometimes parties can negotiate an agreement as to temporary orders for custody or financial support. In those cases where parties cannot agree, a hearing front of a family court judge – which includes your testimony and the presentation of evidence – will be required.
Whether your case will be scheduled for a Status Conference, or a Settlement Conference, or a Case Management Conference depends on which circuit court you are in. This conference occurs during litigation and is an opportunity for the parties, through their attorneys, to discuss issues related to their case, including any issues preventing settlement. It is at these court conferences that issues of custody and the potential need for guardian ad litem may be discussed, or issues related to documents which still need to be exchanged. When a divorce is heavily contested, it is not uncommon for a few of these types of court conferences to occur.
The steps for filing for divorce in Missouri are relatively the same, no matter which process you choose. However, while your divorce is pending, there are several events which may occur prior to the conclusion of your case. Understanding the steps in the process of a litigated divorce can help relieve some of the fear and anxiety associated with the process.
In our next article, we review Trials, Settlements and Judgments.
With a combined 30 years in family law, the attorneys at Jones Family Law Group, LLC, will provide the legal guidance you need. Contact Jones Family Law Group, LLC today for any questions or to set up a consultation.
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