When a divorce is contested, meaning the parties cannot agree about the terms of their divorce (or getting divorced period), reaching a reasonable and satisfactory solution outside of court is impossible or unlikely. In those situations, spouses turn to litigation to get through the process.
Litigated divorce may be necessary if:
- You are not communicating with your spouse
- There is a history of intimidation, bullying or abuse in your relationship
- Your spouse is missing
- Your spouse is acting dishonestly or in bad faith
- Other factors are making it too difficult to come to an agreement outside of court
Unlike other methods, litigated divorce is combative by nature and often involves a longer process to reach a resolution. The steps of this process are briefly summarized below, although some may vary depending on the state in which a couple files for divorce.
- File the Complaint: One spouse must file a “complaint” or petition for divorce with the appropriate county court. The spouse who filed the complaint must serve the other party the documentation. The other party may file a counter-petition.
- Request Temporary Orders: Either party may request a temporary order to permit and/or prohibit certain conduct while the divorce is pending.
- Participate in Discovery: Discovery is the process of gathering information relevant to the divorce, such as bank statements and other financial records, insurance policies, and employment records.
- Mediation: Typically following the discovery phase, mediation gives the divorcing spouses an opportunity to come to a divorce settlement without going to trial. If the parties can resolve their contested issues at this point and reach an agreement, they will not go to court.
- Deposition: To provide additional information, the spouses answer an attorney’s questions under oath. The parties and their lawyers may also request to depose expert witnesses like doctors, accountants, financial experts, other family members, and employers.
- Preparation for Trial: Both parties submit pre-trial documents to the court outlining their requests for the terms of their divorce, including property division, spousal support, and child custody. Attorneys for the parties will prepare exhibits and witnesses and strategize to achieve the best outcome possible for their clients.
- Negotiation: Before trial, the parties will likely attempt to negotiate a divorce agreement during a four-way sit-down meeting. If they are able to settle on an arrangement, a trial will not be needed.
- Trial: Each party provides evidence and testifies under oath regarding the contested issues before the court. Witnesses may also testify at trial on behalf of the parties. After hearing all the facts and arguments in the case, the court will announce decisions to resolve the issues. A final divorce decree documenting the decisions will be signed by the judge, making the divorce and its terms legal and official.
- Appeal: If a spouse is dissatisfied with one or more of the decisions the court has made, he or she can initiate an appeal.
Litigated divorce is the only way some couples will reach a legal agreement to dissolve their marriage. However, divorcing spouses should consider all divorce methods before electing to go to court. The team at Divorce Done Right is committed to educating divorcing couples about their options to ensure they navigate their divorce as efficiently and stress-free as possible.
If you’ve decided to get divorced, we can help. Call (866) 337-4448 or fill out our online form to schedule consultation with a member of our team.