The divorce process is notoriously difficult and stressful, even for couples who are entirely sure their marriages need to end. If you are expecting to divorce in the near future, it is vital to understand how the process is likely to unfold and the legal issues you are likely to encounter along the way. Ultimately, every divorce case is different, but it is generally best for divorcing couples in Oklahoma City, OK to avoid litigation whenever possible.
The litigation process will play out similar to other civil cases. The two parties will file the necessary paperwork, consult with their respective attorneys, and undergo courtroom proceedings until the judge delivers their ruling. An experienced divorce attorney in Oklahoma City is a tremendous asset for anyone beginning the divorce process, whether they intend to litigate or not.
Can I Avoid Divorce Litigation?
Many divorcing couples in the US opt for alternative dispute resolution in light of the notoriously high cost and stress involved with litigation. Mediation is the most popular form of alternative dispute resolution for divorce and allows divorcing spouses to privately negotiate the terms of their divorce in a low-pressure atmosphere under the guidance of a neutral mediator. However, mediation is not always possible, and sometimes a couple can mediate some aspects of their divorce but require further legal review for the rest.
You can avoid divorce litigation if you and your spouse are willing to compromise in mediation or other alternative dispute resolution. However, many divorces are emotionally charged, and a spouse who feels slighted by the actions of the other may demand their day in court.
How Does Divorce Litigation Begin?
Civil claims unfold when a plaintiff files a Complaint to their local courthouse and the courthouse then, in turn, serves the defendant notice of the lawsuit. Similarly, a divorce case begins when a married spouse files a divorce petition with their local family court, and the family court then serves divorce papers to the other spouse. While a divorce case may mirror a civil case in many aspects, there are a few key differences. First, it does not matter who files the divorce petition. Oklahoma upholds a no-fault rule for divorce, so it is not necessary to cite a specific cause when you want a divorce; you can simply state that your marriage is irretrievably broken.
Once the divorce petition is filed, the respondent must file their response with the court. If they happen to agree to all of the petitioner’s proposed divorce terms, then the divorce is uncontested, and a family court judge will deliver a ruling once the waiting period expires. This waiting period is only ten days if the divorcing couple does not have minor children. Otherwise, the waiting period is 90 days. In most cases, the respondent will not immediately agree to the proposed divorce terms, and this contested divorce will either proceed to alternative dispute resolution or litigation.
First Phases of Divorce Litigation
It is generally in the best interests of anyone facing the divorce process to explore alternative dispute resolution to the fullest extent possible before moving to litigation. You and your spouse may be able to privately negotiate some aspects of your divorce, saving both of you time and money on the overall process. However, this is not always possible. Divorce litigation begins with preliminary negotiations and pretrial motions before moving to the discovery phase.
What Is Discovery?
Discovery is the legal concept of opposing parties sharing evidence, so there are no surprises in the courtroom. Both parties in a divorce case must provide complete and accurate financial disclosures and submit any and all evidence they believe to be material to the divorce case. Once the divorcing spouses’ respective attorneys review all discovery materials, a court date is set for the trial to begin.
The trial process is typically daunting at first, but it is straightforward in practice. If you are headed to court for your divorce, make sure you dress appropriately and show up on time. Your Oklahoma City, OK divorce attorney can coach you ahead of time as to what to expect and how to answer the judge’s questions. Trial will typically involve opening statements from both attorneys, a questioning phase, cross-examination, and testimony from witnesses.
Depending on the details of your case, your Oklahoma City, OK divorce lawyer may coordinate expert witness testimony on your behalf. Medical experts, forensic accountants, behavioral psychologists, and social workers are just a few examples of the experts who can potentially weigh in with their professional opinions during your divorce case. Once all evidence has been reviewed and the judge has heard all relevant testimony, they will allow for closing arguments before delivering a judgment.
The Final Result of Divorce Litigation
One of the most challenging aspects of divorce litigation is the fact that the end result is entirely in the hands of the judge, who may not have any frame of reference concerning the personal issues between the divorcing spouses or their respective needs and preferences beyond what state law dictates. This can be very disempowering for both divorcing spouses, and they may find the judge’s ruling unfair or imbalanced.
In the event you complete divorce litigation and are dissatisfied with the result, your Oklahoma City, OK divorce attorney can help you determine the best way to proceed. Family law offers a post-judgment modification process that allows you to petition for a change to an existing family court order without a complex appeals process. This is typically the best approach to changing any divorce order that you believe is unfair, does not suit your child’s best interests, or if you discover pertinent information that should have been considered during the litigation phase.
Find Legal Counsel as Soon as Possible
Ultimately, divorce litigation is a very difficult experience no matter how certain you may be of your position. An experienced OKC divorce attorney is the best asset you can have in this situation, and they will help you streamline your legal proceedings as much as Oklahoma state law allows. Once you have decided to divorce, it’s best to contact an Oklahoma City, OK divorce attorney as soon as possible to start working on your case.