Divorces With or Without Children
A divorce begins when one or both parties decide there has been a breakdown of the marriage. The party who files the court action is the plaintiff. His or her attorney files a Complaint for Divorce with the County Clerk's Office. The Court and FOC receive copies of the Complaint.
The other party, the defendant, may dispute some of the plaintiff's claims. If the defendant files a response with the County Clerk's Office, the case is not considered "contested." A settlement conference will be scheduled regardless of the case being contested or not.
The attorneys may request that the Court enter an order to preserve the status quo during the divorce proceedings. The order may be called an Ex Party Order or a Temporary Order. Child support and parenting time may be included in these orders. he attorneys or the parties write the orders. The judge does not write the orders.
Before the final Judgment of Divorce is granted, decisions must be reached on:
- How the care, control, and maintenance of the minor child/ren shall be shared between the parties. (Physical and legal custody.)
- What actual contact the child/ren shall have with each parent. (Parenting time.)
- How the assets and debts the parties acquired during the marriage shall be divided. (Property Settlement.)
- What financial contribution each of the parents shall make to the support of the child/ren. (Child support, healthcare, childcare, etc.)
- What contribution, if any, one party shall make to support the other, either permanently or temporarily. (Spousal Support.)
- If a spouse shall take back a former/maiden name. (Restoration of former/maiden name.)
- If the residence of the minor children may be removed from the State by either parent. (Removal of Domicile or Permission to leave the jurisdiction.)
- What requirements shall be imposed if a parent seeks to move the child/ren. (Permission to change the children's residence--"100-mile rule.")
- How the tax laws will be considered in deciding support of the property matters.
- If the parties shall cover college expenses.
The judge resolves issues presented to him/her. Many of the decisions listed above are resolved without having to have a hearing before the judge. In cases involving minor children, the Court is required to wait six months from the time of filing the action before a divorce may be granted. During this waiting period, the FOC may investigate issues, the parties and attorneys may negotiate, and sometimes the parties may reconcile. Many parties become involved in counseling and mediation during this time. This waiting period may be waived if the court finds that good cause exists to waive the six months.
After the waiting period, the case is scheduled for a hearing before the judge. In most cases the matters are resolved, and the Court simply takes the testimony of one of the parties and grants the divorce. The divorce papers are called the judgment of divorce. The judgment is prepared by the attorneys or parties and presented to the judge for signature. After the judgment of divorce is entered, any matters that come before the Court are referred to as post judgment proceedings.
In simple cases, the parties may appear in Court only once. In complex or highly emotional cases, the parties may be in and out of Court and at the FOC Office repeatedly.