After discussing your case by telephone I will advise you what I anticipate your case will involve and give you an estimate of my fees. If you are in agreement I will email to you our questionnaire for completion and a contract for services for your review and signature. When you are prepared, we will file your case with the appropriate courts. You will have several decisions to make along the way regarding this process.
1. The initial pleading is filed with the courts. This will be either an Original Petition for Divorce for divorce cases, or Petition to Modify, or Suit Affecting Parent-Child Relationship in modification and custody cases respectively. If physical violence has been a part of your marriage in the past two years, we will additionally file for a protective order. Please note that you may choose to do this free of charge through the District Attorney’s Office in your area as long as you have not already filed for divorce.
Most courts have what is called Standing Orders. Such orders dictate how the parties will behave while their divorce or modification action is pending, which includes a restriction on harassing behavior, wasting of assets, or destroying or encumbering property. This Standing Order, which binds both parties, eliminates the necessity of a Temporary Restraining Order at the filing of your case.
2. If there are children involved and you need immediate help from the courts in either establishing child support and/or possession of your children while the case is pending, we will also file a Motion for Temporary Orders with the original petition. Hearing will be set on this matter usually within a month, based on the court’s schedule.
3. The courts must have proof that your spouse knows of the current pleadings filed. This can be accomplished in one of three ways:
– Your spouse may be served with the documents through a private process server of our choice based upon your timing;
– Your spouse may simply file an Answer with the courts, which presumes that your spouse knows of your filing; or
– Your spouse may sign a Waiver of Service before a notary, stating that he or she is aware of the filing.
4. If temporary orders have been requested, you and I will prepare and then present evidence in a hearing of your needs. Either you and your spouse will resolve your differences prior to that hearing, or the Court will make those decisions for you.
5. After the temporary orders are entered, you and your spouse will begin to relax somewhat and settle into a rhythm that is hopefully less stressful. At this time you and I will discuss the knowledge you have of your marital estate and of your spouse’s activities. We will then prepare discovery requests, which answer questions regarding your spouse’s intentions in the case and help you to obtain copies of documents that you wish to see to help prove your case. It is likely that once your spouse’s attorney has received these requests, they will also ask the same of you.
6. After discovery is complete, and you believe that you know the answers to most if not all of your questions, it will be time to attempt to come to a final agreement with your spouse on how your children will be cared for and how your property will be divided. The final terms of your case will be contained in a Final Decree of Divorce, or Orders Modifying Parent-Child Relationship or Order in Suit Affecting Parent-Child Relationship. The terms may be decided in several ways:
-The two of you may informally come to an agreement by discussing it between you or with your attorneys present;
-Failing informal agreement, you and your spouse, along with your attorneys, will go to an agreed-upon mediator, who will help the two of you come to an agreement by exposing the strengths and weaknesses of your case to each of you, and guiding you towards an agreement that works for you both;
– Failing mediated settlement, your case will be heard by a judge, who will make the final decisions for you.
If your case is agreed upon, it may be final immediately in the case of a Suit Affecting Parent Child Relationship or Modification, or as early as 61 days from the date it is filed for a divorce. If either of you disagrees with the other and insists on a court’s decision, the case could last as long as a couple of years. The average amount of time it takes for a case to conclude is between six and nine months.
Please consider this advice:
1. Eat well-balanced nutritional meals, sleep at least seven hours per night, and exercise at least thirty minutes per day in order to keep your body in the best condition to handle the stress you are experiencing.
2. Your children will certainly benefit from counseling as will you.
3. Do not say bad things about your spouse in front of your children. You may be feeling insecure right now, and afraid that they are going to love the other parent more, but you are absolutely harming your children by saying something bad about their other parent.
4. If you are a drinker or recreational drug user, stop immediately.
5. If you are going through a divorce, do not become involved with another paramour. It will only complicate your case and could harm your rights to your children.
6. Make copies of all important documents and store them somewhere safe. This includes bank statements, credit card statements, passports, and tax returns among many others.
7. The time a spouse is most likely to become physically violent is at the beginning of a divorce. If physical abuse or threat has been part of your relationship, please make sure that you have a safe alternative location to go in case you need it.