I’ve gotten a lot of questions lately about how the Divorce process works. This blog is intended to outline the procedural steps usually taken in a Divorce Litigation. It is not tied to any particular complexity and as it is generic in nature and since litigation is not always one size fits all it is neither exhaustive nor is it intended to cover all the nuances in more complicated litigation.
1) A litigation usually starts with a letter to the opposing spouse advising them that A Complaint for Divorce is about to be filed and they should retain a lawyer and have them contact the writer. The hope is that the lawyers will be able to discuss The matter early on and save the litigants time and money.
2) A Complaint for Divorce is filed and either served on the opposing spouse or More frequently acknowledged by the spouse’s lawyer.
3) The opposing Spouse files a response to the Compliant for Divorce usually an Answer and Counterclaim. Once both parties have filed initial pleading the Issues are joined and discovery begins.
4) The Judge holds a case management conference discussing the complexity of the matter Sets an order for the time frame for the exchange of information and the preparation of reports by experts.
5) If there are children under 18 the parties go to a parent workshop which is an educational meeting where the parties are informed about the impact of divorce on children.
6) The parties with children are directed to none binding Custody mediation with a Court Mediators.
7) Once discovery is exchanged the parties with their lawyers attend an ESP ( Early Settlement Panel) where volunteer lawyers make recommendations about how a matter can
8) If ESP fails the parties are directed to mandatary economic mediation with their lawyers.
9) If economic mediation fails a trial date will be set and if the matter remains unsettled the Parties will present their evidence to the Court and the matter will be decided by a Judge Without a jury.
Anytime in the process, the parties can choose to divert their matter to Private Mediation or Arbitration. Mediators make recommendations about how matters can be settled and help the parties and their attorneys devise solutions it is not binding and anyone can refuse to resolve the matter as recommended. Arbitration is a binding process where a selected Arbitrator hears evidence and makes a decision as binding on the parties as a Judicial Determination. In some ways an Arbitrated settlement is more powerful than a Judicial Decision as the ability to appeal an Arbitrators award to a higher court is severely limited. This snapshot of how a matter moves through the process is skeletal and intended as a primer so you have some awareness as to how a matter typically flows. Good luck.