Answers To Your Family Law Questions
- What is a “dissolution of marriage” action?
- Will I be divorced in six months from the date the petition is filed with the court?
- What is the process to begin a “dissolution of marriage” action?
- What role does my lawyer play in a “dissolution of marriage” action?
- What happens at an initial consultation?
- When should I have an initial consultation?
- How can I tell if my lawyer is experienced enough to handle my case?
- Will I have to go to court?
- I have children and their custody/visitation will be a big deal with my spouse and me. What is the court process I will have to follow?
Question: What is a “dissolution of marriage” action?
Answer: A “dissolution of marriage” action is an actual real lawsuit where a person seeks various court orders related to the termination of a marriage. “Dissolution” is another word for “divorce.” The document that begins the dissolution action is called the “petition,” and the person filing the “petition” is called the “petitioner.”
Question: Will I be divorced in six months from the date the petition is filed with the court?
Answer: Not automatically. Additional paperwork will need to be filed with the court before you are actually divorced. A hearing may be necessary.
Question: What is the process to begin a “dissolution of marriage” action?
Answer: In general, the petition and certain other documents are executed by you and some are filed with the court. Then, all of the documents are hand-delivered (“served”) to the other spouse. The other spouse, now the “respondent,” has papers of their own to file with the court, and provide to you, under deadline.
Question: What role does my lawyer play in a “dissolution of marriage” action?
Answer: Your attorney (and his/her staff) completes and files all documents that need to be done in your case. Your attorney represents you in all aspects of the case, including attending court with you, developing and implementing strategy, negotiating all agreements or understandings, and working with you to confirm and investigate when needed all property and financial claims before any agreement is made.
Question: What happens at an initial consultation?
Answer: You will be asked certain important information concerning your case. Your objectives will be discussed. A lot of detail regarding your children, employment and your estate will be solicited. Timing and strategy may be addressed. This meeting is important for a variety of reasons. First, it allows for you to discover if he or she is a good fit for you. Second, it provides a preliminary limited scope overview of your situation. Third, it is an excellent way to understand your legal rights before you decide to take any action. And by the way — initial consultations are completely confidential.
Question: When should I have an initial consultation?
Answer: Initial consultations are free, and you should set one up if you: a) are undecided about seeking a divorce but simply want to know your legal rights, or b) have decided to seek a divorce but want to have plenty of time to prepare for it or c) are ready to begin a dissolution of marriage action.
Question: How can I tell if my lawyer is experienced enough to handle my case?
Answer: Ask detailed questions. Ask the attorney how many times they have been in trial. Ask how many years the attorney has been practicing law and in particular, family law. Discuss in detail those areas of your case that are especially important to you. This allows you to observe the depth of the attorney’s knowledge and the attorney’s ability to think and strategize. Online attorney rating services can be helpful but they can also be manipulated — the best way to properly assess an attorney is to schedule an initial free consultation and for you to actually meet with that attorney.
Question: Will I have to go to court?
Answer: Maybe. In many cases, the client never has to go to court. If you do have to go to court, then it is unlikely you will have to say anything at court — your attorney will do the talking for you. The usual exception is if you actually have to provide testimony.
Question: I have children and their custody/visitation will be a big deal with my spouse and me. What is the court process I will have to follow?
Answer: In general, if there is a disputed custody/visitation issue, you and your spouse will attend a mediation managed by a counselor at a department called Family Court Services, before the court makes any custody/visitation orders. The court system prefers that parents reach mutual custody/visitation agreements whenever possible. So, before you go to court you attend a mediation in an informal setting. The goal of the mediation is to help the parents find common ground and mutual agreements. However, whatever is not agreed upon is referred to the court, with recommendations by the mediation counselor.