WHAT IS THE DIVORCE PROCESS LIKE?
Magistrate Christine McGee, Chief Magistrate of the Montgomery County Domestic Relations Court once said: “In criminal court you see bad people acting their best, and in our court you see good people acting their worst.” In a perfect world, separation would be a painless process of dividing your assets and deciding what a perfect visitation schedule you and your ex will use. No one (no matter what your friends may tell you) has a perfect divorce.
The process begins with the filing of a complaint. Ohio law allows for “no-fault” divorce and also sets forth specific grounds upon which the filing can be made. The complaint is then “served” on the other party by certified mail, or by a personal process server. If no answer is filed the court assumes that the request is reasonable and grants the requested relief. If an answer is filed then the case proceeds and is placed on the court’s docket. Your case will be heard only by a judge, as Ohio law does not allow for a jury trial in divorce cases.
The parties begin the process of “discovery” which may take the form of written questions, document requests, interviewing witnesses or taking depositions. The goal of the Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure is to assure full disclosure of both parties. You should participate in this process by reviewing the answers provided by the other side and relating any anomalous answers to your attorney.
The first court appearance most people experience is the pre-trial. The attorneys and the judge meet to discuss everything pertinent to your case. You are required to sit outside in a conference room. Your attorney should advise you of the possible issues to be covered and his strategy as it relates to these issues. Sometimes a party may request the other party to submit to drug testing, psychological testing, a home study or many other things. Sometimes the Court asks another professional to become involved in the case. If your case involves custody issues the court may appoint your children their own representative, a guardian ad litem. Often the pre-trial is a time to explore settlement and your attorney may shuttle back and forth with questions or offers. The better your communication and preparedness, the better you will feel about this process.
At any point in this process, you may wish to pursue a settlement. The better the communication between you and your lawyer, the more you will feel empowered to explore this option. Your attorney may counsel you to compromise and cooperate when you do not want to. Conversely, your attorney may tell you that you are being too accommodating. Remember, the attorney works for you not the other way around. Other methods are used to facilitate a settlement and these may be initiated by either the parties or the court. In fact, many counties have great success in using court-appointed mediators to allow the parties a chance to settle the case prior to a full trial. Currently, Greene County does not have a mandatory mediation process.
If the parties are unable to come to an agreement, the case proceeds to trial. Both parties present evidence and the judge decides the issues, including child custody and visitation, spousal support, property division and whether or not the divorce should be granted. If either party does not like the judge’s decision, they may appeal.
This process may last anywhere from a few months to several years. It may have many ups and downs. It may be petty and frustrating. It may empower you or make you feel as though you have absolutely no control. Even under the best of circumstances it will be traumatic and expensive. What is also amazing is that your adversary may not want to ever allow this process to end. The main determinant of how smoothly the process will go is the level of cooperation between the parties and their willingness to compromise. Family law lawyers can provide valuable counsel and objectivity in what can be emotionally charged situations. In my years of litigation, no two cases (or people) are alike.
Jamie L. Anderson dedicates her practice to representing families through the changes of a divorce or dissolution. She has made herself one of Greene County’s most prominent matrimonial attorneys and will use her experience to secure your family, your finances and your future. Jamie practice matrimonial law throughout the Miami Valley in the Greene, Montgomery, Clark, Miami, Warren, Fayette Domestic Relations and Juvenile Courts. Contact Jamie L. Anderson at (937) 879-9542 or visit www.OhioDivorceAttorney.com to learn more.