Divorce is never a pleasant experience and the decision to file is often a complicated one. The practical, emotional and financial issues involved in any divorce action can be overwhelming, but in certain cases, people find that a divorce is necessary to lead a better and more peaceful life. When there is no possibility of reconciliation between spouses, the law firm of McKellar & Easter, Attorneys at Law, is here to help guide you through the divorce process in as dignified a manner as possible.
What Is Contested Divorce?
A contested divorce is initiated by one spouse filing a complaint for divorce with the court. A complaint lays out statistical information about the parties, lists the grounds for divorce and asks for certain relief, such as the granting of the divorce, child support, alimony or division of property. If the parties have minor children, a temporary parenting plan is also filed simultaneously with the complaint, laying out a proposed co-parenting schedule.
Also filed is a notice of injunction, which explains that neither spouse may transfer, assign, dissipate, conceal or borrow against any marital property without permission from the court. This injunction also prohibits canceling, modifying, terminating, assigning or allowing to lapse any insurance policies. When minor children are involved, neither party may take the children outside the state or more than 100 miles from the marital residence during the divorce without permission from the court.
Once the non filing party, or the defendant, is served, that person has 30 days to file a response (called an Answer) with the court. If this does not occur, the plaintiff will set the case before the judge and go forward with finalizing divorce through a motion for default. This allows the plaintiff to decide the terms of parenting and finances.
If the defendant does file an answer, then the negotiation process begins. If the parties do not settle and/or resolve all issues, then they are mandated to go to mediation within six months of the filing of the complaint. This process allows the parties to reach a settlement agreement upon their own terms, with the help of a neutral mediator. Some divorce courts require one mediation session (usually three to four hours) and other divorce courts require multiple mediation sessions.
What Is Discovery And What Is Its Purpose?
Discovery is a term used in almost every contested divorce. Discovery includes all methods of each side obtaining information. For example, interrogatories are a type of discovery. Interrogatories are made of a list of written questions that must be responded to in writing under oath and also normally involve the production of documents. For example, routine interrogatory questions will ask each spouse to list all debts and assets and provide bank account and credit card statements.
Depositions are another form of discovery, and they involve each party being questioned by opposition counsel in the presence of a court reporter, who then provides each side with a transcript. Interrogatories are routinely done prior to mediation and depositions scheduled after a failed mediation, but either can be used at any time.
When Parties Can't Reach An Agreement
If a settlement is not reached, the case will proceed to trial, where a judge will decide all unresolved issues. Both parties may testify and provide any documentation or other proof such as bank statements, photographs, tax returns, etc. Each spouse is also allowed to call relevant witnesses, such as extended family, mental health professionals or others. At the end of the parties' proof, the judge will issue a ruling. This ruling will place a value on all property, divide assets and debts between the spouses, determine if alimony will be paid and, if so, the type and amount, and order who will pay court costs and attorneys fees.
How Our Firm Can Help
At McKellar & Easter, Attorneys at Law, our family law team is led by attorney Sarah Easter, whose primary focus is to help clients through the difficulties of the divorce process, whether a couple has decided to end their marriage in an uncontested manner or through other means such as collaborative divorce.
To schedule an appointment with Ms. Easter or any of our experienced attorneys, contact our law office in Knoxville, Tennessee. Call 865-566-0125 or send us an email to set up a free initial telephone consultation. We accept credit cards.