Stage 1 Filing the Petition
· Option to file simple, non-threatening petition.
· Option to request temporary orders hearing to decide immediate issues for children, financial support, and payment of bills.
Stage 2 Temporary Orders Hearing
· Establishes court orders related to children - such as temporary care, temporary visitation times, temporary child support, and provisions for medical care for the children while the case is pending.
· Establishes court orders related to finances - temporary possession of the residence, cars or other assets; payment of bills; and temporary financial support for the spouse.
· May address temporary orders for payment of attorneys fees and other costs of the divorce litigation from community funds.
Stage 3 Discovery
· Allows exchange of information to determine each party’s positions and the nature and value of the marital estate.
· Written Discovery:
Request for Disclosure – standard set of questions to every party requiring identification of witnesses, expert witnesses and legal contentions.
Interrogatories – limited to 25 written questions, sent to the opposing party asking about any matter relevant to the case.
Request for Production – unlimited requests to the opposing party to provide copies of documents related to the case.
Request for Admissions – statements presented to the other party which they must admit or deny.
Subpoena for documents to nonparty – request for documents from other sources, such as banks, schools, employers, etc.
Inventory and Appraisement – a sworn detailed statement completed by each party listing their assets and debts.
Oral Depositions: pretrial witness examinations taken under oath in front of a court reporter, usually in one of the attorney’s offices. Any witness that has information about the case may be deposed. Deposition testimony can be used in court as a substitute for live testimony.
Stage 4 Mediation/Trial
· Before trial, a mediation session usually occurs. The parties and their attorneys meet with a neutral third-party (usually an experienced family law attorney or former judge) to negotiate, compromise, and reach a settlement agreement.
· If settlement is not possible, the case will be presented for trial either before judge or jury. Only certain issues may be presented to a jury, such as custody, geographic restrict of the children, and value of the marital assets. Other issues may only be decided by the judge, such as a possession schedule with children, the division of property, and amount of child support.
· A trial is a formal hearing where witnesses testify live or by depositions, exhibits are introduced into evidence, and argument is made to the judge regarding the requested relief. At the end of the trial, the judge/jury will decide the contested issues.
Stage 5 Decree
· The decree is the final order signed by the Judge confirming the agreements or rulings in the case. The document is usually lengthy and formalizes all of the provisions of the settlement or judgment.