Divorce is one of life’s most painful experiences. Your emotions will be on a roller coaster. In most cases, both parties do not want to end the relationship to the same degree and one person has been more emotionally hurt than the other. The more issues to be resolved, the more complex the divorce process will be. At the onset of a case, we assess the number and complexity of contested issues, the vehemence of your feelings and the feelings of your spouse, your inclination to consider settlement, the identity and style of the assigned Judge, the anticipated court calendar, and the identity of opposing counsel and his or her style.
A divorce action is generally begun with the filing of a complaint. The decision of who should file requires an analysis of various issues, including support considerations, health insurance considerations, the existence and nature of retirement plans, and considerations related to the types of assets and liabilities involved in the case. Actions for divorce, property distribution, support, and custody may be included as a part of a single complaint or as separate and distinct proceedings.
A divorce decree may proceed by consent where each party signs an affidavit of consent. This allows a Judge to grant a divorce decree. At the earliest, a marriage may not be dissolved until 90 days have passed after the complaint is filed and served. A divorce may proceed based on fault grounds if one of the parties has engaged in certain acts of marital misconduct listed in the divorce code. A divorce may also proceed if the parties have lived separate and apart for more than two years. The time between the filing of a divorce complaint and the entry of a divorce decree will depend on many factors. A period of two years or more is not unusual when there are issues in dispute.
Property distribution, support, alimony, and custody may be uncontested. In such cases, the parties enter into a written settlement agreement or a consent order of court. In some cases, despite everyone’s best efforts, a settlement cannot be reached. Actions involving contested divorce, property distribution, alimony, and counsel fees typically begin with a conciliation before the Judge assigned to the case.
After pretrial discovery is completed, the case will be scheduled for a pretrial conference where the parties meet with the Judge for a final attempt to settle the case. If the case is settled at the pretrial conference, the resolution is memorialized through a consent order or a recitation of the settlement on the record. If a settlement is not reached, a trial is scheduled.
If the case does not settle, it will eventually proceed to a trial where each side presents testimony and evidence and the court makes a final decision. The case may be heard by the Judge, or by a Master appointed by the Judge. At the time of trial, witnesses may be called and documents presented to support the case. The Judge or Master may render a decision immediately or may mail a decision following the trial. If a Master hears the case, either party may file exceptions to the decision. If exceptions are filed, the Judge reviews the record of the hearing and counsels’ briefs and counsel argues the exceptions before the Judge. If a Judge hears the case, the parties may file an appeal to the Superior Court under appropriate circumstances.
At Strassburger McKenna Gutnick & Gefsky, our lawyers are experienced and skilled in determining the type of divorce to pursue, what relief to seek, and the tactical and strategic analysis required to make these decisions. Contact Reid B Roberts at email@example.com today to schedule an appointment.