November 30, 2023 8:26 PM
Child Custody

What Happens in First Hearing of Contested Divorce?

Date:
By Liz B. Gatsby
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What happens in first hearing of contested divorce

If you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement on divorce issues, such as property division, alimony, child custody and support, you’ll need to go through divorce litigation.

This can be a very stressful and expensive process. The good news is that you can reduce the likelihood of a contested divorce by settling prior to going to trial.

Initial Appearance

If your case is contested, the first court appearance will be called a “Preliminary Conference” or a “PC.”

Your attorney will meet with your spouse’s attorney and fill out a Preliminary Conference Order, sometimes referred to as a PC Form. This form acts as a roadmap defining what issues will be presented in the case.

You should read over the PC Form and make sure you understand all of the issues that are present in your case before you show up at the court. This is especially true if there are children involved.

After the PC Form is filled out and signed, the parties and their attorneys will meet with the judge to discuss whether the case can be settled by agreement or needs to go to trial.

If the case can be settled, the judge will then sign a Judgment of Divorce. If a trial is required, the court will then render their own judgment on all of the issues in your case.

Case Management Conference

In the first hearing of a contested divorce, the parties will appear before a judge and discuss issues in their case. This can include determining which issues are important, setting deadlines for discovery, and discussing whether or not to send the case to arbitration or mediation.

The purpose of this meeting is to ensure that the case proceeds efficiently and in a timely manner. This includes confirming that evidence has been gathered and that witnesses are prepared to testify.

It is also a good time to get an overview of the court system and to ask questions. For example, if you’re unfamiliar with the process of filing for divorce, this conference can help you get an understanding of how the proceedings will go.

The case management conference is an essential step in the process of a contested divorce. It helps the parties and the court determine which issues are most important, set deadlines for certain tasks, and provide guidance to keep the case moving smoothly and efficiently.

Discovery

Discovery is a phase of contested divorce in which you and your spouse formally request information from the other side. It can be used to collect data about your assets, debts, income and expenses for the children.

It can also be used to gather evidence that might be helpful in a trial. The information you obtain during this stage can help you build your case and determine whether or not a settlement is in your best interest.

You and your attorney can use discovery to gain information about a wide range of things, from employment history to personal property to trust fund info. However, you must be careful about what you disclose because a lie could result in a fine or jail time.

If your spouse refuses to turn over any of the documents requested, you can file a motion to compel them to do so. A Judge can then order your spouse to produce the documents within a certain amount of time. If they don’t comply with the discovery orders, a contempt of court hearing may be held.

Trial

The trial phase of a contested divorce is when both parties’ attorneys will call witnesses, present evidence, and explain their case to the judge. This is usually done to settle issues like child custody, alimony, and asset distribution.

Before the trial, you may be asked to file a Pre-Trial Memorandum (sometimes called a “pretrial brief”). This is a summary of your arguments that will be used at the trial.

If you are involved in a contested divorce, you must also file a Financial Disclosure Form. This is a document that lists all of your assets and financial information, such as bank accounts, real estate, retirement plans, and more.

During the discovery phase of your divorce, you should have been asked to turn over all documents related to your financial situation. If you are still unsure about whether or not you have turned over all of the required information, you should contact your attorney as soon as possible.

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