Contested Divorce Proceedings

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Contested divorce is a type of divorce option, where both the parties fail to come to a mutual agreement on all concerned issues surrounding the end of marriage like child custody, visitation and support, spousal maintenance, distribution of property and division of debts. The partners in such a case approach the court and the court makes the final decision on all issues that they were not able to negotiate. Contested divorce proceedings involve several complex steps and thus, litigation process takes time to finalize. Each state in US follows separate laws pertaining to divorce proceedings.

When a couple embarks on the route of a contested divorce, they must bear in mind that this is a time consuming and emotionally draining way. It is recommended to hire the services of an experienced divorce attorney to steer along the way. The first step in a contested divorce is to meet the residency requirement. Following the requirement, the person has to fill and file the petition and other essential divorce documents at the family court of law. This is followed by service of these documents to the other spouse.

Hearing for Temporary Orders in Contested Divorce Proceedings

Usually, a contested divorce may need several months to be finalized. So, it is quite possible that one of the divorce lawyers may request to schedule a hearing for temporary orders. The orders made during this hearing are effective till the divorce is finalized. Some topics that are discussed during this hearing are as follows:

  • Who should maintain the property?
  • Who would pay the bills?
  • Who would take care of the children?
  • Who should bear the debts?

Both the partners can attend the hearing along with an agreement that has been agreed upon by them. In course of the hearing, both partners can submit proofs that can be helpful to the court to resolve the issues temporarily. After the court issues temporary orders, they remain in force till one of the spouses files a modification of the agreement or till the divorce becomes final.

Phases in Contested Divorce Proceedings

  • The lawyers of either party may request discovery of the other spouse. This comprises of proofs such as the following:
    • Witness lists
    • Credit card bills
    • Property deeds or titles
    • Pay stubs

In a nutshell, all that is related to financial issues, visitation and custody is probed in this phase

  • After this, the court might issue orders that each spouse should be present at divorce mediation or custody counseling. The intention of these phases is to facilitate the divorce process and decrease the tension of the children. If the case is resolved by agreement, one of the attorneys prepares a Decree of Divorce which includes a detailed information on the agreements the couple will settle on issues

  • The decree of divorce is signed by both the parties, followed by the judge

  • If the parties do not reach a settlement agreement, it is followed by a trial for the case. During trial, each party needs to prove their points through witness and evidence. The judge will hear both sides of the case at trial and then come to a decision

  • After the trial has concluded, the Decree of Divorce will be prepared which contains the court's orders. When the Decree of Divorce is signed by the judge, the case is concluded

  • Either side has the right to appeal for a new trial by thirty days after the judge signs the petition.

The Final Divorce Hearing in a Contested Divorce

In this hearing, each spouse presents proofs to the judge, as those mentioned below:

  • Financial records
  • Medical reports
  • Testimonies of both witnesses and spouses

These evidences are of use to the judge to issue fair orders regarding distribution of assets and debts, child support and child custody. While dealing with a straightforward case, the judge may make a ruling from the bench. When the issues are complicated, the judge may need some time to make the final ruling.

After the judge makes a decision and enters the divorce decree, it is regarded that the divorce has been finalized. Usually, each spouse is offered a duration (usually of 30 days) to file and respond to the post trial motion. The intention of this motion is relief from the final judgment.

If the post trial motion is denied, the spouse is free to make an appeal. Such an appeal must be made within a specific time period (usually 30 days) after denial of the post trial motion or after the date of final judgment.

A couple must follow the necessary steps involved in contested divorce proceedings. Since this process is complicated and time consuming, the help of an attorney may help complete the legal formalities in a proper way. An attorney will also provide guidance in settling issues in a worthy and fair manner.

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