Birmingham Divorce Attorneys: The Divorce Process

Consultations at a discounted hourly rate!
Consultations at a discounted hourly rate!

The divorce process is ever changing. There are many routes that you can take once you begin going through the divorce process. Each case is different, so you cannot read one or two blogs and know exactly how it is going to go. Everything depends on your judge, opposing counsel, and your spouse. Unless you ask Ms. Cleo how things are going to be handled, you really have no way of knowing where or how your path will lead you. We can guarantee that you will end up divorced, but the “if’s, and’s, and but’s” will always be there to tell you each case is different and we cannot predict everything about your case.

1. Make a consultation

We charge to meet with both attorneys for an hour. There are some law firms that do not charge a consultation. Most of the time, those firms are looking for new business or they take cases based on their winnings. Because we only do family law, we do not work that way. We make our money based off of our knowledge of this area of the law and our knowledge of the system.

Think of it like a co-pay. You pay for us to tell you what’s wrong and how to fix it. We evaluate and tell you what we need to prescribe you to fix your problem and how much it is going to cost. “Oh, your wife is having an affair with your brother when she said she was sick in bed? And, you have a multi-million dollar business that may or may not have been doing some shady stuff?” That’s a doozy. Looks like that retainer is a bit higher than others…

2. Hire an Attorney

Once you hire us, we’ll immediately begin your case. It normally takes about 5-7 days for us to get any necessary paperwork drafted unless you’re working on an emergency timeline. (That’s a different situation.)

3. Immediate Hearing/Emergency Hearing

Do you need an emergency hearing or a “pretty quick hearing”? 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 dance floors 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.

4. Motion, Motion, Motion

In the meantime, while you’re awaiting possible trial date, there are many things that can happen to get you relief whether it’s mental or financial. Perhaps it’s a Motion for Second Pendente Lite Hearing, or a Motion to Compel, or Motion to Show Cause, or Motion to “Please Make My Spouse Behave Like a Human Being.” These are like sprinkles that go along the path of the “process.” Motion to Move on To Number 5.

5. Negotiation

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 …

6. Discovery

Discovery is a beast.  It is the process of “discovering” what the opposing side has by multiple different methods like: issuing questions to be answered by the other party under oath and producing documents regarding anything from bank accounts to health records. You can also request they be present for a deposition. A deposition is where you are questioned under oath while a court reporter takes down everything you say. It is expensive and it’s 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. The Discovery process 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.

7. Trial Prep.

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. The two of 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.

8. Trial.

(Maybe the end… maybe not…)