Sunday, September 15, 2013

What Does it Take to Finish?

A couple of days ago, I got a call from a woman who was upset because her divorce was taking a long time to finish.  She had an attorney (not me), but was thinking about changing because the divorce wasn't finished up. She thought by now, it should be over.

I found out that she had filed, temporary orders had been made, they had completed discovery by responding to the requests of each party and both parties wanted the divorce to be over with.  I guess she thought everything would easily fall into place.

The missing ingredient seems to be "agreement".  Without that, it will take longer to finish.  

Here's what people in that situation should expect:
  • The attorneys will go to Court and prepare a scheduling order with deadlines and a final trial date.  Normally included in the schedule is mediation, a very effective way to settle the case.
  • Mediation can be set up soon since discovery has been finished.  If they were still missing some information, the attorneys would probably hold off setting the mediation until the information is produced.  It's hard to mediate and settle with incomplete information.
  • Reach agreement.  This is usually accomplished at mediation or in follow-up negotiations.  
Then as they say on TV, "but wait, there's more":
  • Paperwork.  There's a final decree or court order.  It's usually very detailed, so it's enforceable.  There may be a wage assignment form and some other forms the attorneys prepare that you don't have to deal with.  There may be a deed or deeds, a power of attorney to change a car title and some other miscellaneous papers to be signed.  Even though attorneys deal with these documents all the time, it is still time consuming to produce and proofread them.
  • Prove-up.  One or both parties, with attorneys, will appear at court to briefly prove-up the divorce.  It's a simple hearing, but the Judge needs to hear testimony in most cases to be able to sign the papers.
If you don't reach agreement in mediation, you will have to wait longer for resolution.  Your trial date is very often 9 months to a year after the date of the scheduling conference at Court. After a trial, you still have to do all the paperwork and then get it signed.

By the way, her divorce had only been on file for about 3 months when she called me.  I had to tell her that her divorce was still a very young one, that if they didn't agree, it would probably take another 6-12 months to get to trial.

If you're in a hurry,  you need to settle. 

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