Understanding the Litigation Process of a Dissolution Matter
Generally, a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is filed at the outset of the litigation. After service upon the other party, a response should be filed within 30 days. These documents outline the parties’ initial position in the case.
If temporary orders for child support, spousal support, use of a residence, use of a vehicle, custody schedule, etc. are needed, an Order to Show Cause hearing is scheduled and usually set within the initial six weeks. The temporary orders are designed to maintain the status quo so the parties do not destroy themselves before receiving a final judgment. At a minimum, it takes six months and one day from the time the responding party is served to obtain a final judgment.
After the temporary orders are in place, the parties engage on a discovery plan. Generally, documents are requested and interrogatories are sent to the opposing party. Interrogatories are questions which are answered under penalty of perjury. The discovery plan is implemented to determine the other party’s claims and the possibility of the other party’s succeeding on these claims. At a minimum, the parties must file a Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure which requires an Income and Expense Declaration, as well as a statement of assets and debts and the accompanying documents which support that declaration.
Once the discovery is completed, the parties claim that the case is “at-issue”. When the case is at-issue, the parties must file a Final Declaration of Disclosure which includes a statement of assets and debts and an Income and Expense Declaration in order to indicate to the other side any changes in their position. Thereafter, a Mandatory Settlement Conference and Trial date are set and the case is usually finalized sometime before or during the Trial.