Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Family Court Proceedings

Divorce is strictly a legal process. Only legal issues can be resolved. What a divorce cannot do is punish one party or place blame.  In some cases, there are children of the marriage and their time-sharing and decision making has been addressed along with assets and debts.

At the beginning of a divorce, it is hard to predict how long it will take. Your attorney can better judge length after the case is underway. Some factors that affect length are:

  • The number and complexity of contested issues
  • The parties’ ability to work together
  • The court’s calendar
  • The lawyer representing the other party

Upon filing your Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, the clock starts running.  There are certain time constraints to followed.  For instance, when discovery has been sent by either party, typically, the opposing party shall have 30 days to respond.  While that is not set in stone, mind you, but it indicates how the Rules can make a case go faster or more slowly.

There is no way to predict the ultimate amount of fees you will pay.  The fees differ from costs which are also difficult to estimate.  However, there are other financial costs. Filing a case requires a deposit with the court. There also may be costs needed throughout your case and in preparation for a trial and Final Judgment. may be property valuation, discovery, court reporters, transcripts, a guardian ad litem, supervised visits, or pension evaluation.

There may be a hearing to decide important issues while your divorce is in process. A Judge/Magistrate may issue a written decision called a temporary order. The temporary order remains in effect until modified or the case ends. The temporary orders are not permanent. They may be different than the court’s final decision.

One alternative is to reach a settlement agreement. If you and your spouse can decide most of the issues in the divorce, it can make the court trial shorter. A second approach is utilizing the mediation process.  Your attorney will prepare you for mediation. There are many different option regarding mediation.  As always do not sign anything without your lawyer present.

Yes. Confidentiality is essential for honesty and openness and is necessary for success in your divorce. Your attorney is prohibited from telling other people what you have told him or her.

Your divorce is unique. It will be different from other people’s divorces. Bringing third parties such as a friend, neighbor or another family member into your meetings with your attorney is not encouraged. Your discussions with your lawyer may not remain confidential if another person is at the meeting. If your spouse finds out, the third party can be legally required testify about what you told the lawyer.

By law, the property will be divided equitably (Equitable Distribution). Before the property is divided it must be identified, valued, and classified as marital or separate. Some factors that the court will use in determining property distribution are the duration of the marriage, the property and debts of the spouses, the cost of sale, tax consequences, and any division made by a separate agreement.

Debt is treated similarly to the property. Before it is allocated, it must be identified, valued, and classified. The creditor is not a party to your divorce. If both you and your spouse signed for the debt, the creditor may collect from either of you regardless of whom the court orders to pay the debt.  This, along with equitable distribution of assets can be difficult to determine.

There is no guarantee or right to spousal support (Alimony). Unless your spouse agrees to pay you support, the judge decides whether spousal support is appropriate. The decision to award spousal support depends on the relative needs and resources of the parties. Some factors that the court will use in determining spousal support are the income of the parties, the parties earning ability, age, physical, mental, and emotional strength, retirement benefits, duration of the marriage, standard of living, education and tax consequences.

The court prefers for parents to create their own plan for custody and parenting time (visitation). If you and your spouse cannot develop a parenting plan, the court will use a set of factors to determine what is in the best interest of the children.  This, too, can be difficult to determine, although some cases are easier than others.

The court will make an order of support for the children based on a formula provided by law. The formula includes factors such as the net (using “net” amounts, it provides for the court to consider allowable deductions. The cost of healthcare and childcare, and the number of children.

Under most circumstances, you will be allowed to go back to your maiden name.  The Court has factors that it will consider.

Dating while your divorce is pending may create problems for you. If custody is at issue, evidence of your dating or involving a third person with your children is bad for your case and may result in the loss of custody. Dating is not recommended. However, if you do decide to date, you must fully inform your attorney about your decision and the people you are dating. Your attorney will discuss with you the possible consequences of your actions.  The Court should want to know about any legal transgressions attributable to your boyfriend/girlfriend, so choose wisely.