You’ve entered into the dark abyss of “going through a divorce.” You filed your complaint and you are ready to get this show on the road. You’ve done all the research – meaning that you’ve watched all of Drop Dead Diva, Suits, The Good Wife, How to Get Away With Murder, and Law & Order which you’ve backed up with some googling and a bit of youtubing. You know exactly how this going to go, until you realize that you don’t. You’ve filed the complaint & had your spouse served, they answer and file a counterclaim. Now what? Well, it all depends on what your individual circumstances require! Here’s a bit of a timeline to help everyone understand:
- You need immediate action in regards to custody and/or monetary support. Maybe your Wife has been stealing your child’s ADHD medication, and she took little Timmy and ran away. Last you heard she was a collarbone-protruding-size-00 living in a park tiny house (which is really just a cardboard box with some marker drawn shrubbery) with Timmy and their new friend Gutter Gus. You probably need immediate action from the Court to obtain custody of Timmy. Maybe your Husband found out that you know about his affair with your daughter’s ballet teacher, and he’s decided that he was going to drain all of your joint accounts to buy her new dancefloors and ballet barres for each of her eight studios. You probably need immediate action to stop him from putting you both into a large amount of debt. What do you do? You file for Pendente Lite This is a Motion asking for a Hearing with the Court to temporarily settle some issues during the pendency of the case. After a Motion is filed, you wait for a Hearing date. This is not always immediate, but sometimes it is. You’re at the mercy of the Court’s calendar. May the odds be ever in your favor.
- You negotiate. You two are okay living apart. The bills are getting paid. The two of you are able to schedule time with the children. The overall split appears to be going as well as could be. At this point in time, you merely need lawyers to help you two negotiate and work out a fair agreement because you aren’t sure what is fair. You aren’t sure what the paperwork needs to say. You don’t do this for a living, so you need someone who does. During this time, this could take months or years if you can’t come to an agreement. If the two of you aren’t in constant fights and arguments, the negotiation will continue until you are able to come to an agreement. If you can’t come to one, it might be best to seek the Court’s help. That’s why you wait until a Settlement Conference is set up or Mediation. The thing is, if you aren’t asking for the Court’s immediate help, you’re merely outside of the Court’s eye. It’s like children playing in the sandbox having a ninja turtle dispute quietly while there are other children pulling each other’s hair and throwing transformers at each other in plain view of their parents. This could take a long time because you cannot force someone into an agreement when they simply do not want to agree. This is why we utilize settlement conferences (informal- in our offices / formal- at the courthouse), mediation (a negotiation where there is a third party who facilitates the process), or simply letters & phone calls. Once again, remember: you cannot beat someone or starve someone into an agreement. If they will not agree, we cannot make them. So if you can’t agree, you trek on …
- You have to do Discovery. Discovery is a beast. It is expensive and its time consuming, but it is a necessary evil. One of the big issues people have when they are going through a divorce is that they don’t know their spouse’s every secret. They may have thought they knew each other. They may know how many times the other person toots when they sleep or what their favorite vegetable could be, but they don’t know how much is in their retirement, their five savings accounts, or their hidden social media accounts. This is why Discovery is important. Attorneys simply cannot advise you on a good settlement if the other party has a yacht hidden away. That’s why we look into the depths of their accounts and their souls. We’re protecting you and ourselves. Discovery helps rid you of surprises for the trial. It helps you find out what their “theme” of the case may be. Are they saying that you’re a controlling gold digger? Are they saying that you hated your oldest child? What are they trying to prove? You need to know so that you can address it.
- You prepare for trial. If you cannot come to an agreement, it’s time to start putting together exhibits, testimony, and searching for who you want in your battle. You come prepared with bank statements, photos, recordings, etc. and you learn the do’s and don’ts of testifying before the Judge. We’ll go more into detail on this later, but trial isn’t fun. It’s a long drawn out day where you are interviewed on your most intimate details and your most tedious ones. Please state your name and your address. When did you get married? How long have you been married? Before you got married, where were you working? Your spouse? You spend hours talking about what went wrong and tearing each other apart. You sling mud back and forth and you attempt to show that you’re the wronged party. You issue subpoenas on people you want to testify. Does he have a girlfriend? Send her an invite to the divorce show. Does she leave your children with her new BFF, Casey Anthony, while she goes out drinking? Come on down, Casey. You’ve lost your control over the outcome, and it’s in the Judge’s hands now.
- You prepare for the aftermath. You have submitted your life and your ex’s life to the Judge. Now you await. If you’re unhappy, you can ask them to reconsider. If you’re still unhappy, you can appeal it. Appeals are costly, but sometimes effective. If you are deciding to try a case, make sure that you save a little money for an appeal because nothing is predictable these days, and you never know what could happen.