- Research Process Options. Consider your goals and select a process option that will help you reach them. If you and your spouse already agree on many areas of your divorce, you may be able to resolve your case through mediation, or on your own with the help of an attorney to draft your paperwork. If your case is more complicated but you are committed to ending your marriage cooperatively, Collaborative Divorce may be a good fit. If your spouse is threatening to cut you off financially, hide assets, withhold the children, or if there are other safety concerns, you may need to pursue court litigation to protect yourself and your children.
- Retain an Attorney. Divorce is complicated and getting advice from an attorney early in the process can help avoid major issues down the road. It is important to make sure that the attorney you hire is a good match for you and your case. Research several potential attorneys and schedule consultations with more than one before deciding who to retain. Make sure the attorneys you meet with offer the services you need depending on the process options you are leaning toward (e.g., unbundled legal services, mediation support, Collaborative Law, or litigation).
- Share information with your Attorney. In order to best advise you, your attorney will need a comprehensive and detailed understanding of your circumstances. The sooner you can provide your attorney with requested financial and other records, the sooner your attorney can help you develop your case strategy and settlement options. It is important to be open and honest with your attorney, even if some details are unflattering or embarrassing. Your attorney needs to be aware of both the positives and negatives of your case to help develop an effective strategy. Remember that with very few exceptions, everything you disclose to your attorney is protected by attorney-client privilege.
- Initiate the Divorce Process. Your attorney will help you prepare the legal documents required to initiate your dissolution. In a litigated divorce, your attorney will prepare a petition, summons, and other court documents to be filed with the court and served on your spouse. These documents set out the basis of your case and what you are asking for in the divorce process. Your attorney will help you determine whether additional documents should also be filed with the court to protect your interests, such as a request for a restraining order locking the existing parenting plan in place, or a request for temporary financial support.
In a Collaborative Divorce, your attorney will prepare a Collaborative Participation Agreement for you and your spouse to sign. In mediation, your mediator will prepare a Mediation Services Agreement for you and your spouse to sign.
- Service. The process of delivering the initial court filings to your spouse is called “service.” Traditionally, service is accomplished by hiring a process server to hand-deliver the papers to your spouse. This process can feel aggressive and adversarial, and many divorcing spouses agree instead to accept service voluntarily rather than having a process server catch them off guard. The method of providing service should be tailored to your goals, and to the unique circumstances of your case. Once your spouse has been served, they have thirty days to file their “Response” with the court.
In mediation and Collaborative Divorce cases, service is not necessary because the parties resolve the entirety of their case outside of court. Once a full agreement has been reached, the parties jointly file all of their legal documents with the court.
Contact us at Posey Legal, P.C.
For answers to your questions, or to determine whether you want to retain us to represent you in your divorce, whether litigation, mediation, or Collaborative Divorce, contact us to schedule an initial consultation. You may also call us at (503) 241-0818.