The majority of families who file for divorce do so on the contested track for divorce. All it takes is a disagreement on a singular issue, for example whether or not you should be required to carry life insurance, to make the case a contested divorce.
On the contested divorce track, one party files a Complaint for Divorce in the Probate and Family Court. The court processes the paperwork and opens a case. The court will return paperwork, including a summons, to the party who originally filed for divorce. That party is required to serve the paperwork upon their spouse by a sheriff or constable.
Once the other party is served certain protections go into place, like the Automatic Restraining Orders. The Automatic Restraining Order is not an Abuse Prevention Order that does not allow you to go near your spouse or children. The Automatic Restraining Order that goes into effect protects each party from the other removing a beneficiary designation for life insurance or health insurance. It prohibits incurring any debt or draining any accounts. This provides protection to both parties and children.
There are times when parties need to be in court sooner rather than later. There are procedures in place to seek temporary relief from the court. If a spouse has moved out and is not contributing financially to the home or children, a Motion for Temporary Orders may be appropriate to seek custody and support orders. Depending on your own circumstances, we can make requests upon the court for relief while the case is pending.
There are mandatory financial disclosures that are required in a contested filing for divorce. Typically there is a period of what is called discovery that takes place. In order to determine whether or not a final settlement is fair, there needs to be a complete financial disclosure: how much does each party make per year; how much do they have in retirement; how much debt was incurred on behalf of the family; how much debt was incurred on extramarital spending, etc. Without a full disclosure, there is no way to determine what should happen.
Approximately six months after the date of filing, the court will schedule the case for a pre-trial conference. At this court date, you are able to present a complete settlement for divorce. In this instance, the court would approve your settlement and your divorce would be final in 90 days.
In the event you do not have a complete settlement, the pre-trial conference is an opportunity for each party to present, briefly, their case to the judge. Most judges will provide feedback based on the information presented at the pre-trial conference and will provide guidance as to how they may determine the case if it were scheduled to trial. In most cases, cases settle shortly after the pre-trial conference.
In a small amount of cases, there is no settlement possibility. The issues remain contested until the date of trial. At trial, each party has the opportunity to present their case for their position in the case. Most often divorce trials are about custody or some type of support amount. The second most popular reason is the division of assets. In these scenarios, you have no say and are leaving the decision to the judge. Judges will determine what should happen with your children, your assets, your liabilities. Depending on the circumstances, this might be the right option for you. Sometimes not. Please contact us to schedule your consultation to review what options are available to you and your family.