10 Key Events in the Divorce Process
If you are thinking of getting a divorce, the process is not only emotionally draining, but can be complicated and overwhelming. To help clarify what one can expect, here is a brief description of ten key events that occur during the divorce process:
1. Choosing a lawyer. This may be your most important decision. The lawyer you hire is your advocate, guide and confidant during the process. You want a lawyer who is well- respected and knowledgeable. Many people ask a trusted friend or advisor for recommendations.
2. The Consultation. A skilled lawyer makes a client feel comfortable and confident in their abilities. At my consultations, I always ask clients what their goals are, and we discuss ways in which we can go about achieving them. I make sure that clients leave with a clear path for moving forward.
3. Dispute Resolution vs. Litigation. One of the first decisions you make in the process is how to start. Some people want to start with direct negotiations before filing in Court. In other situations, litigation is the preferred option. I always discuss both options with clients and advise as to how I believe the best way is to proceed.
4. Filing for Divorce. When you file for divorce, you are asking the Court to award you relief, that may include custody, child support, alimony, property or money. It is important that you understand what relief is available to you under Maryland law and the reasons why you may—or may not—be entitled to it. It’s important to ask questions if you do not understand something in the Complaint.
5. The Scheduling Conference. This is likely to be your first Court appearance in the divorce process. You and your lawyer will be ordered to attend a conference at the courthouse. Your case will be screened for services, like drug testing or a custody evaluation. It is also when you get dates for future court appearances.
6. Discovery. This is often the most tedious part of the divorce process for parties. It is when you are asked to provide written answers to questions (called Interrogatories) and documents to the other side. It can take a long time to get what is needed, and often times, it can be overwhelming. I always work with clients to break down the process and make it go as smoothly as possible.
7. Co-Parenting Classes. In all cases where child custody is in dispute, parents are required to attend co-parenting classes. Depending on what county your case is in, the classes are either offered online or you will be required to attend in-person. These classes are designed to teach parents about various methods of conflict resolution. Many of my clients have found these classes to be helpful.
8. Mediation. Mediation is required when child custody is in dispute. The mediation can take place at the courthouse or with a private mediator in his or her office. Even if mediation is not court-ordered, it is still a desirable option. Mediation is an excellent opportunity for parties to confidentially discuss the issues and work towards a settlement. A resolution in mediation will take away the uncertainty of trial. Studies have shown that when a family law case is resolved through mediation, the parties are less likely to return to court in the future. Private mediation can take place before or during the litigation process.
9. Settlement/Pre-Trial Conference. This is when the parties and lawyers go to Court to see if the case can be resolved prior to trial. If you do resolve your case at or before this conference, you may be able to put the settlement on the record and end the case there.
10. Trial. If issues remain unresolved, then there will be a trial where a Family Magistrate or a Judge will make the decision (called a “ruling”). At trial, each side puts forth their witnesses, evidence and arguments as to why the Court should rule in their favor. Some rulings are given at the conclusion of the trial, while other decisions will be issued at a later date and time. Once the decision is issued, either side has the opportunity to appeal.
The more informed you are about the process of divorce, the less anxiety you will feel. I believe the key to a successful divorce is to minimize my clients stress level by providing them with as much information and pragmatic guidance as possible.
If you are seeking advice about divorce, please contact the Law Office of Laurie M. Wasserman LLC at 410-842-1070 or firstname.lastname@example.org. We practice in jurisdictions throughout the State of Maryland.