Divorce at a Glance, Step-By-Step
Creating a Summons and Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and then hiring someone to personally serve your spouse with those documents does not set you on a crash course for litigation. It is, however, the first step in a process than can eventually land you in court for a trial.
The good news is that there are still many opportunities along the way for settlement.
Once your spouse has been served, he or she will have 30 days to provide an Answer, along with any counterclaims for the court to consider. If an Answer is not provided within the 30-day window, he or she is considered to be “in default.”
In this situation, you would have the right to ask the court to grant the divorce on the terms you outlined in your petition. More often than not, however, preliminary settlement discussions will have already begun by this point. In fact, if a settlement seems likely, the initial Summons and Petition may not have even been filed with the court yet.
If papers have been filed and you cannot settle your differences quickly, your divorce will be scheduled for what’s called an Initial Case Management Conference (ICMC). This will generally take place within the month the Answer is filed.
At the ICMC, the judge will discuss the procedures involved, set a timeline for the rest of the case, and may also order (but will at least strongly encourage) you to attempt to resolve your differences through alternative dispute resolution methods first.
Often, this will involve using neutral third-party specialists such as Child Custody Evaluators or Financial Early Neutral Evaluators to assist you in trying to achieve an out-of-court settlement at subsequently scheduled meetings.
After the ICMC, either you or your spouse may also file Motions for Temporary Relief to address issues such as home occupancy, temporary custody, and temporary orders for support.
If no settlement is reached, the “discovery” phase of the process will begin and the lawyers for each of you will start preparing for trial in earnest, gathering financial documents, expert evaluations, depositions, and other information necessary to support your position in court.
While a large percentage of cases are resolved by settlement prior to this point, those that have not will enter the pre-trial and then trial phases of the process shortly thereafter.
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The divorce process can be tumultuous and stressful under even the best of circumstances. For a lawyer you can depend on to guide you through it and a tenacious advocate for your interests throughout the divorce litigation process — contact the Law Office of M.J. Fox, P.A. online or call attorney Meagan J. Fox directly at 715.829.3484.
The Law Office of M.J. Fox, P.A., in Woodbury, provides professional family law and divorce-related services to clients throughout the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area and surrounding portions of Central Minnesota.