FAMILY ISSUES | Divorce and Related Issues

More often than not, divorce is emotionally traumatic and financially burdensome and it is difficult for the participants to keep their focus on their ultimate goals.

Is the marriage salvageable?

If abuse is not involved, and if you believe the situation may be salvageable, seek advice from a marriage counselor or your spiritual advisor.

What to consider if you think you will have to file for divorce

If counseling has not succeeded or is not likely to succeed and you are thinking about filing or have been sued for divorce, you will have to consider these main issues:

  1. Child custody, if you have children of the marriage
  2. Child support, if you have children of the marriage
  3. Spousal support
  4. Division of property and assets

If possible, it is best if you and your spouse can agree on as many of these issues as you can beforehand. We realize that in many cases agreements will be difficult if not impossible, depending on the personalities involved, but an effort should be made to resolve as many issues as possible by agreement. This reduces the financial and emotional costs for our clients.

Gather information

Before calling an attorney, you should gather as much information as you can about the following:

  1. Your real and personal property
  2. Your debts and financial assets, including any insurance policies and health insurance coverage
  3. Your current incomes
  4. Your and your spouse’s ability to earn income after the divorce
  5. Any training or education that one spouse may need in order to improve his or her earning capacity
  6. The existence or likelihood of any events or circumstances that may result in either party moving to another state

How it works

  • Step 1:  You gather and organize the information described above.
  • Step 2:  Retain the services of a lawyer and sign a fee agreement. Typically, this will involve payment of a retainer against which the lawyer will bill for his or her time, with additional retainers being needed as the initial retainer is exhausted.
  • Step 3:  Petition—A petition for divorce is filed asking the court to grant the divorce and decide other issues such as support, custody and division of property.
  • Step 4:  Temporary orders—If circumstances warrant, a party may also request the court to issue temporary orders that deal with a number of issues while the divorce case is pending. Among other things, temporary orders may set amounts of spousal and child support, require one or the other party to continue paying certain debts, require the parties to submit inventories of property in their possession and make provisions for the protection of certain assets.
  • Step 5:  Discovery—the parties will exchange requests for information and documents pertaining to the issues that will be decided, such as support, custody and property.
  • Step 6:  Appraisal—It may be necessary to have property appraised before the court can properly divide it.
  • Step 7:  Mediation—the court often orders the parties to mediate any disputed issues before the court hears the case.
  • Step 8:  Trial—If the parties do not resolve all of the issues amicably or through mediation, the court will hold a trial and hear the parties’ evidence on the unresolved issues.
  • Step 9:  Decree of divorce—After the trial, the court will decide the issues and issue a divorce decree. The decree will include everything that the parties agreed upon and the court’s decisions on the unresolved issues, such as:
    • Who, if anyone, is entitled to spousal support, how much and for how long.
    • Who is to have custody of and visitation rights with the children, if any.
    • Who is to pay child support, if any, how much and for how long.
    • Parenting plans
    • Protective orders
  • Step 10:  Post-trial motions and appeals—To the extent that the court has decided issues that the parties did not agree upon, either party may ask the court to reconsider or appeal the decision to a higher court.
  • Step 11:  Enforcement—if a party fails to perform his or her obligations under the divorce decree, the other party may seek the court’s assistance in enforcing the decree. Typically these proceedings involve one or more of the following issues: spousal or child support, child custody and visitation, and division of property.
  • Step 12:  Modification—If circumstances change, either party may ask the court to modify the decree, if the other party does not agree to the proposed modification. The court will hear evidence about the alleged changes in the parties' circumstances and issue an order that either rejects the request, grants the request, or grants the request in part.

Interstate issues

If it is even remotely possible that some events may occur or circumstances arise that could prompt one of the parties to move to another state, you must discuss this with your attorney at the earliest possible moment. An interstate move of either party will complicate the process both before and after the issuance of the decree because special laws apply to the enforcement of child custody and support issues across state lines.

If you want our help

If you want us to evaluate your case, click here to get our Client Questionnaire  or call us at (713) 254-0099 for more information.