Litigating a divorce is the most expensive and lengthy way to get divorced. In a contested divorce, unfortunately, it’s a fact. Most people don’t really understand what the whole process looks like. It will differ from case to case but in general, it helps to know what you’re going to face if you choose or you are forced to go this route.
A contested divorce case in New York State begins when a spouse files a “divorce action” with the court. A spouse then has to serve the other spouse who has about three weeks to respond. From the time of filing, there are several interim steps that lead up to the actual trial (*this is a rough outline of the divorce process, each case differs depending on the situation):
- One party files an Request for Judiciary Intervention (RJI) to have a judge assigned to your case.
- A preliminary conference with the court where the schedule is set for the case.
- Discovery-the collection of all documentation related to finances, including a Statement of Net Worth.
- If documentation is not forthcoming from one spouse, subpoenas are issued to force disclosure.
- Depositions where each attorney sits down with you and the opposing party and asks for clarifications in front of a court reporter.
- A pre-trial conference where you file an updated Statement of Net Worth and any related documents and receive your trial date.
- The trial takes place over a few of days (hopefully).
- After the trial, the Judge will likely request post trial memos which are then submitted to the court.
- After some period of time-1 month to 1 year sometimes, the Judge renders a decision.
- One party may appeal the decision at this point.
There may be motions filed along the way for temporary support, custody or to compel your spouse to pay, just as examples. In between each phase, your attorney is likely trying to negotiate a settlement with your spouse’s attorney. At every step of the way, your attorney and your spouse’s attorney are charging you for their time.
Ultimately, after all this work, time and money spent, you are at the mercy of the Judge as to what happens. Keep that in mind as think about having your day in court, is it really worth it?