Anatomy Of A Divorce Case-From Initial Interview To Trial

West Palm Beach Divorce Attorney

When a divorce is about to be filed it is often difficult to know whether a case will be settled or it will go all the way to trial on a contested basis. Therefore, in outlining the anatomy of a divorce case, it must necessarily include discussion of both settlement and trial.

Divorce Case Steps

  • Initial interview with attorney
  • Petition for dissolution of marriage (divorce petition)
  • Spouse response to petition
  • Mandatory financial disclosure and discovery
  • Mediation
  • Trial

The law offices of West Palm Beach Divorce Attorney, Stephen J. Press has been handling divorce cases with compassion and professionalism for four decades.

Initial Interview with Attorney

You are thinking about a potential divorce and you are contemplating your first visit to a divorce attorney. At the initial interview you will be deciding if you feel comfortable with the attorney and he or she appears competent and professional. All conferences with the attorney including the initial interview are strictly confidential and it is important that you are honest and forthright. An attorney is at a distinct disadvantage if the client lacks veracity or withholds information. The attorney will be hampered in his representation if he does not receive all pertinent information. If you bring financial information to the first interview it can be helpful. However, it is not necessary. The attorney will inform you what additional information must be provided and will discuss with you the next steps to be taken in your case.

Divorce Petition

To start a divorce case, a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage must be filed and served by a process server on your spouse. The petition is served with a summons which informs your spouse that he has 20 days to respond to the petition. If there are minor children involved the petition and summons are also accompanied by a court order directing the parties to attend a parenting class. In some counties the court may enter an order prohibiting the parties from disposing of assets.

Spouses Response to the Petition

Your spouse must file a written response called an Answer and serve a copy of the answer on your attorney or you if you are not represented. Your spouse has the right to file his own petition which is called a Counter petition for Dissolution of Marriage. Both the petition and the counter petition contain a general outline of the issues in the case and the relief that a party is seeking such as divorce, custody, alimony, child support and equitable distribution of assets and debts.

For more information concerning the divorce process, please contact the law offices of West Palm Beach divorce attorney Stephen J. Press at 561-833-2772.

Mandatory Financial Disclosure and Discovery

Within 45 days of the filing of the petition both parties are required to provide to the other spouse a list of financial documents called mandatory disclosure as follows:

  1. Financial Affidavit
  2. Tax returns (both individual and corporate).
  3. IRS forms W-2, 1099 and K-1.
  4. Pay stubs.
  5. Loan applications.
  6. Deeds.
  7. Checking and savings account, statements.
  8. Brokerage account statements.
  9. Retirement and pension statements.
  10. Credit card statements and promissory notes.

The above list is not exhaustive. Although the documents must be produced your attorney will need this information to determine a reasonable settlement and to prepare for mediation. Your attorney may do additional discovery such as interrogatories, requests for production of documents and depositions of the parties and prospective witnesses. The latter discovery is done in preparation for trial.

Mediation

Mediation is an opportunity for the parties to try to settle their case in a formal setting. The parties and their attorney meet with a mediator often in one of the attorney's offices. The mediator is not the judge and has no authority to decide the case or any issue in the case. The mediator cannot order the parties to take any action or to settle. The mediator acts as a neutral third-party to attempt to facilitate a settlement between the parties. As much as one half of all cases settle through the mediation process or through informal negotiation. If a settlement is reached at mediation, or otherwise a marital settlement agreement will be drafted by the attorneys or the mediator for the party's execution. If there are minor children, the agreement will also contain a parenting plan and time sharing.

Trial

If the parties are not able to reach a settlement, the case will be decided by the court after the parties have taken part in a trial. At the trial, each party will have the opportunity to put on witnesses and to cross-examine the other side's witnesses. The parties may also present evidence in the form of documents which includes the financial affidavits and quite often the financial documents for mandatory disclosure. In order for testimony to be heard by the court and documents entered into evidence for the court's consideration the rules of evidence must be complied with. It is important that your attorney be experienced in divorce litigation and trial practice to properly represent you at trial. The law offices of West Palm Beach Divorce Attorney, Stephen J. Press, are highly competent and experienced in divorce litigation and trial practice. However, our office always explores settlement first and considers a trial as the last resort.

Contact a West Palm Beach divorce attorney

The law offices of West Palm Beach divorce attorney, Stephen J. Press offers a free, confidential conference. Please call us at 561-833-2772 or contact us online.