Divorce Court Procedures

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Following certain court procedures are mandatory to resolve any legal matter. Divorce in USA is no exception. Since, every state in the US has formed separate divorce laws, the proceedings also differ according to the variation in laws. If you want to get rid of your married relationship legally, you must abide by the state laws so that you do not face any obstruction once the divorce court procedures start. These start with the petition is filed and ends when the judge signs the order.

The divorce procedures start when the "Original Petition for Divorce", also called as "Letter of Complaint" in some states, is filed with the local court clerk. This document identifies the partners involved in the divorce and their children, if any. The grounds for divorce are also mentioned. If the Petitioner feels that he or she is due for some relief, this is also included in the document.

In this article we are going to throw light on the various phases of court procedures that illustrate what happens after filing the petition, procedures regarding discovery, final phase of the procedure and the process of appeal.

Divorce Court Procedures after filing the Petition:

Once, you are ready for your documents and file for a petition, you need to follow certain steps as mentioned below:

  • The Petition and related documents are served to the Respondent. Different states in the United States permit varying modes of service like:
    • personal service by Petitioner or
    • through a private process server or
    • through a Sheriff or
    • by registered mail or
    • by certified mail or
    • through publication in a newspaper

  • Each state has allocated a particular number of days within which the Respondent is expected to file a Response to the Petition. The Respondent is free to file a Counterclaim with the Response.

  • Consider the period from the filing date till the date of grant of the divorce. During this phase, the divorcing partner may ask for temporary orders, protective orders or restraining orders. These orders should be adhered to compulsorily and those who violate them may be indicted for contempt of court. As per the discretion of the Judge, they may be fined or jailed.

Divorce Court Procedures about Discovery:

Discovery process includes collecting information about the opposite party. Broadly speaking, there are 5 steps in this procedure and possibly some of those may become a part of your divorce process. These 5 steps are as follows:

  • Depositions:

    Lawyers take a sworn testimony of the divorcing partners and / or the witnesses. All that is disclosed in a deposition can be utilized during the divorce procedure.

  • Request for Production:

    Any divorcing partner or the attorney can request the opposing partner to furnish documents like statement of income, bank statements etc. Each state has specified a time period within which these documents have to be produced. Due to this time period, this procedure hampers the likelihood of a swift divorce.

  • Admissions of Fact:

    One divorcing party submits a written roster of facts to the other party. The recipient of this roster is expected to either negate or accept each fact.

  • Interrogatories:

    The lawyer forwards a list of questions to the opposite party. Every state has determined the limit on the number of questions and the Response time.

  • Disclosures:

    Lawyers of both parties request certain issues from the opposite party and the list is sent to the party. Duration for responding to the list is set by each state. Each state has its own rules of civil procedure for conducting the disclosure process.

Final Phase of Divorce Court Procedures

In the final phase, the judge orders for a divorce mediation which is very important because if mediation fails, then the trial will begin and you will not get a further chance to mutually resolve issues.

Mediation is a divorce process in which both divorcing partners and their lawyers assemble and talk regarding the conflicting issues and work towards developing an agreement that satisfies both parties.

If mediation fails to draft an agreement, then the trial stage begins. The Judge examines what both the partners have to say in their defense, what evidences are being put forth and then arrives at a decision regarding all conflicting issues. The final Decree contains of all the decisions made by the Judge and the Judge eventually signs it, to make the decision final.

The process of Appeal

If any divorcing partner is dissatisfied with the decision made by the Judge, he/ she can file a motion to appeal the order in a higher court.

This discussion is only a brief highlight of the major divorce court procedures. Divorce court procedures may last from 4-8 months and the duration can exceed depending on the complexity of the case and the number of issues to be solved. You must understand all these and hire a professional lawyer who will guide you throughout the whole process.

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