A divorce case is a tier-two domestic level case. Once you have drafted and filed your divorce, you have to serve it personally on the other party, which is generally done by having someone other than you or your attorney deliver the documents in person to the individual. You can also send them through certified mail, provided that the Respondent is the person who signs for them. After that, the Respondent has 21 days to file an answer in which they respond to your petition for divorce, letting the court know which paragraphs they agree with and which they disagree with. This identifies which issues are going to be contested. If they admit to some of the issues, those issues are no longer contested.
Only the contested issues need to proceed and in a divorce case, there are generally five broad categories: real property, personal property, alimony, child support, and child custody. It is highly possible that in a case involving all five, some of those issues will not be contested while others will be hotly contested. The Respondent’s answer helps identify which of those issues are going to be contested. The Respondent can also file a counter-petition. If that were to happen, then the Petitioner would have 21 days to answer the counter-petition.
After receiving the Respondent’s answer, the Petitioner has 14 days to deliver their initial disclosures on the other party. This is a requirement in every family law case.
Most of the discovery is financial information, such as pay stubs and tax returns. The court is going to use that information in establishing child support and alimony. You also have to provide a list of witnesses you plan on using at trial and a list of exhibits you might use. Forty-two days after the answer is filed is the deadline for the Respondent to file their initial disclosures and serve them on the other party. That constitutes the second phase of the divorce.
Following initial disclosures, the parties enter into the fact discovery phase. In a family law case, fact discovery lasts for six months. You have discovery tools that you use to try to get the evidence you’re going to need to be able to prove that what you are asking for is what the court should grant you at trial. You have the ability to subpoena documents and conduct up to 15 hours of depositions, which is where you put potential witness under oath, and ask them all the questions you would ask them at trial to find out what their answers are going to be beforehand.
Discovery is essentially being able to look at your opponent’s cards before you place your bets. This can obviously be a very useful tool. You can depose the opposing party for up to seven hours and any other witness for up to four hours. You are also able to issue written discovery, which is a series of questions, requests for documents, or requests for admissions. The other party has 28 days to file their responses. During the six months, these requests are going back and forth between the parties and this is where it is a strong, focused strategy is crucial. You have to figure out what do and what you are asking for.
After fact discovery, there is three months set aside for expert discovery. In a family law case, the most common types of experts are a custody evaluator and a vocational expert. A custody evaluator will conduct a lengthy evaluation of your specific situation and make detailed findings about what custody arrangement will be in the best interest of the children. A vocational expert is an individual with the training and capacity to talk about the employability or the earning capacity of an individual. A week after fact discovery closes, you have to disclose the experts you plan to use to the other side. You have to include information like what you paid them and what their credentials are.
You will receive the list of experts the other side plans on using. For every expert, you can choose to either depose or request from them a written report. If there are concerns that one party is not mentally fit to perform the duties of a proper parent, the other party can request a psychological evaluation. That mental health evaluator could be called as an expert witness to provide their expert opinion. The other party can then hire an expert witness who would be a rebuttal expert witness to their expert.
At the end of expert discovery, the case should be ready for trial. There is a deadline to file a certificate of readiness for trial. The court also requires that you attempt to settle the case through mediation at least once. Some clients want to get into mediation right away, before they have laid out a lot of resources. Others do not want to go into mediation without having done discovery because they have a lot of unanswered questions and they don’t know yet what a likely trial outcome would be.
There are a number of ways a case can go from contested to uncontested. If the case settles at mediation, it is over. If the attorneys or the parties were able to work out an agreement at any point along that timeline, the case would be over and you could submit final documents. You can settle on certain issues and continue to fight over other issues, but at some point, you have to tell the court whether you need to have a trial. If so the court will hold a pretrial conference. The court finds dates that work for everyone, schedules the trial, and at its conclusion, the court issues a ruling.
For more information on Timeline of Divorce Process In Utah, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (801) 923-6565 today.