The Court Process After the Filing of the Complaint For Divorce- What Happens Next?
First, the other party is served with the Complaint for Divorce or Acknowledges the Complaint for Divorce and files a responsive pleading; an Answer, an Appearance, or an Answer and Counterclaim for Divorce. If they don’t answer, a default can be entered, but that is a different process.
Once the responsive pleading is filed, you will be scheduled for a Case Management Conference in order for the court to enter a Case Management Order for our case.
What is a Case Management Conference (CMC) and what is the purpose of a Case Management Order, (CMO)?
A Case Management Conference, (CMC), is a required court appearance with both parties and their attorneys. Essentially, the purpose of the CMC, is to ‘track’ the case. The court will address things such as custody and parenting time, discovery (Interrogatories and Notice to Produce and Requests for Admissions), appraisals, experts, and set forth time frames to complete these things. This is then documented by the court entering into a Case Management Order, [CMO].
The following are some examples of what is discussed at the CMC, between the attorneys, the parties, and the court, which is then put in the form of an order, the CMO.
First, the CMO will address if there are issues with custody and parenting time. If so, the court will determine if mediation of those issues is necessary or appropriate. If it is, the court will schedule a custody and parenting mediation session with the mediator employed by the state at the courthouse at no charge to the parties. This is further explained in the blog addressing custody and parenting mediation.
Next, it will be determined what types of ‘discovery’ is needed for the case. For example, if appraisals of any nature are needed, the order will reflect a date as to when the appraisals are to be completed, who is to do the appraisals and how are they being paid for. This could be as simple as an appraisal for the marital home, appraisal of commercial buildings, particular assets, or a forensic accountant if there is a business involved, an evaluation of retirement accounts, and so on.
If necessary, the CMO will address if ‘experts’ are needed on any particular issues. Experts can range from a forensic business evaluation, to a custody expert and, if necessary, an employability expert. These are just a few examples of experts that can be involved and which can be costly. Whether or not you would want an expert is certainly something to discuss with your attorney prior to the CMC.
The typical discovery that is exchanged between the parties, are Interrogatories, and Notice to Produce documents, Requests for Admissions and sometimes Depositions. The CMO will reflect a date by which each of the parties has to serve the other with this type of discovery to be answered by that party and will also reflect a date when the answers to this discovery are due from each of the parties, as well as when depositions are to be completed.
The exchange of financial information is critical to resolving almost every case and one of the early documents to be completed is your Case Information Statement, (CIS). (You can download the form of CIS under “Be Prepared” on our website.) It is required by court rule and completed is almost every case. It contains information on your marriage, ages, your children and ages, your employment, expenses and assets and debts. The CIS is usually due to be filed with the court and exchanged between the parties, prior to the completion of discovery. However, the CIS can and should be updated and amended as information is updated from the inception of filing and particularly after having the opportunity to review discovery.
Finally, as to this order, the CMO, the court usually inserts a date for the next court appearance, which is usually the Early Settlement Panel (ESP). The details about what I involved with an ESP will in an upcoming blog.