The Divorce Processxxxxxxxxx
Initial Interview with Attorney
During your initial interview, you will need to decide if you feel comfortable with your attorney and want him/her to proceed with your case. Most attorneys require an up-front fee (known as a retainer) of several hundred dollars to "retain" their services. Most attorneys charge an hourly rate and their time is charged against the retainer. Your attorney should provide you with a detailed accounting of all the time he is charging you for and what he did during that time.
During your initial interview and any subsequent meetings, your attorney will begin to collect detailed information on you, your spouse, your incomes, debts, assets, family situation, children and any other information pertinent to your case.
Preparation of the Petition
The Petition is the basic document asking the Court for a divorce, for a division of property, determination of child custody, child support, etc.
Filing the Petition
After the Petition is signed, it is filed with the Clerk of the District Court, along with a statistical report required by the Court, a financial affidavit and child support guidelines (if there are children involved). The assignment of a judge is made by computer at this time.
At the time the Petition is filed, it is quite common to have a Restraining Order entered. A restraining order is an order entered by the Court which can do two things: 1) restrain the other spouse from harassing, threatening, or harming the other spouse and 2) restrain the spouse from selling, transferring, hiding any assets, or taking out a loan against any of the assets.
Notice In Local Newspaper
Court proceedings are public information. Most local newspapers monitor activity within the courts and report it in the paper. If your newspaper does so, and most do, there is no way to prevent their announcement of your filing of a divorce petition. The announcement usually appears in the paper within one week of filing.
Giving Notice to the Other Spouse
After the Petition has been filed, the other party must have legal notice of the action. This can be accomplished in one of two ways: 1) forwarding a copy of the Petition to the spouse and having them sign a document called a Voluntary Appearance; or 2) having the spouse served with the documents by the sheriff's office.
In most, but not all situations, it will be necessary to have a Temporary Hearing to determine such things as temporary child custody, temporary support, whether or not one spouse should be excluded from the family home, etc.. This hearing will usually take place 10 days to 3 weeks from the date the Petition is filed, depending on which judge the case is assigned to and how quickly the hearing can be set on the judge's calendar.
60 Day Waiting Period
From the date of the filing of the signed Voluntary Appearance or the spouse is served by the sheriff, there is a mandatory 60 day waiting period before the final divorce hearing can be set. Usually during this time the attorneys will send out Interrogatories which are written questions. The other spouse must answer the Interrogatories under oath giving information about their assets, debts, income, etc. Also during this time the attorneys will usually be attempting a settlement of the case.
If the parties are not able to settle the case, the case will go to trial and the District Court judge assigned to the case will decide any of the issues not agreed upon by the parties.
After trial or settlement, a written Decree will be prepared by one of the attorneys setting out the parties' agreement and/or the judge's decision. This is probably the most important document that will come out of the entire process, as this document will govern everything after the divorce.
30 Day/Six Month Interlocutory Period
The Decree is final 30 days after the entry of the Decree, except for remarriage, meaning that neither you nor your spouse may remarry anyone anywhere in the world during this time. For purposes of inheritance and purchasing real estate, the Decree is final immediately.