When a couple decides to divorce, and they are unable to reach an agreement amongst themselves, they may have no choice but to proceed with a litigated divorce. In divorce litigation, each party has a divorce attorney who advocates for their separate interests and all communication and correspondence takes place between the lawyers. When divorce litigation is required to dissolve a marriage, the divorce proceeds through the steps listed below.
The Steps of the Divorce Process
Initiating the Divorce
When initiating the divorce process, a petition for divorce must be filed in the county where you or your spouse reside. You are your spouse must also have at least six months of residency in the state to file a divorce petition in California.
Serving the Divorce Petition/Complaint for Divorce.
When a petition for divorce is filed, the other party is served with that petition and is required to answer. The receiving party must respond within 30 days of receiving the summons in the divorce petition.
Requesting of Temporary Orders
Once the petition has been served and delivered, either party can request temporary orders to permit or prohibit one or both sides from participating in specific actions such as spending. Temporary orders help establish rules for both sides to live by until the divorce case is resolved. These rules usually address areas such as:
- Temporary custody arrangements
- The allocation of funds
- Debit repayments
- Child and spousal support
After divorce litigation is underway, divorce attorneys work to document facts relevant to the case. During the discovery phase, each side’s lawyer drafts a list of questions-referred to as interrogatories-that the other party must answer under oath. In addition to responding to these questions, each party can also request that their spouses provide records regarding things such as:
- Bank statements
- Credit card bills
- Disclosure of assets and liabilities
- Employment records
- Income tax returns
- Inventory and appraisement documents
- Life-insurance policies
- Paycheck stubs
- Names of witnesses (who may testify at trial)
Mediation can occur at any time during litigation by agreement. While it may be ideal to resolve disputes outside of the court, it is not always practical because what one spouse may consider fair, the other may not. When this occurs, the unresolved issues go to court where a judge decides them.
In a divorce, each party can take the depositon of the other as well as non-party witnesses who may help build their case. A deposition is a form of discovery that involves a process where the deponent provides sworn evidence. Witnesses may include:
- Family members
Pre-trial preparation is an essential step in the divorce process. The information that surfaces during a divorce trial is dependent on how well lawyers are prepared and able to present facts that may be favourable or unfavourable to their client.
In a divorce case, both parties are required to submit pre-trial documents to the court 10 – 20 days before the court date. These documents define how each party would like the issues (i.e. property division, assets, child and spousal support) to be handled by the court.
It is quite common for the majority of it divorce lawyer’s time to be spent on this step because preparing for trial can be labour intensive. For instance, to properly prepare for a divorce case, a divorce attorney may:
- Speak with witnesses
- Prepare exhibits
- Generate direct & cross examination questions
- Anticipate and prepare for the strategy that may be used by the opposing party
When there are unresolved issues between a divorcing couple, the contested issues are presented in court. Common concerns that are usually addressed during a contested divorce case include:
- Asset distribution
- Child custody
- Child support
- Debt allocation
- Determination of separate property
- Division of community/marital property
- Parental duties and rights
- Pre-and post-marital agreements
- Permanent spousal support
Order of Dissolution
The last phase of the divorce process is the creation of the judgement of dissolution, which is an official order (decree) that ends the marriage and finalizes all aspects of the divorce.
When it comes to divorce litigation, it is important to hire a divorce attorney who is properly prepared and understands the laws surrounding the divorce process. The divorce lawyers at the Law office of Julia Ann Brungess have over 36 years of combined experience in family law and divorce litigation services and handle each case with the utmost attention to detail for success both inside and outside of the courtroom.
If you are looking for divorce representation and currently reside in Madera or Fresno Counties