What Happens When a Divorce Is Filed?

Judge Quinn's Courtroom

A divorce or legal separation case begins when the plaintiff the party who starts the court case files a formal complaint at the courthouse. The defendant, the other party, may answer within 28 days. If an answer is filed, the case is contested. If the defendant does not file an answer, the case is uncontested.

When a divorce is filed, mutual restraining orders are put into effect and remain until the case is finalized. Both parties are restrained from: a)selling, transferring or destroying assets; b) threatening, abusing or interfering with the other party; c) incurring further credit; d) changing insurance coverage; and e) removing the children from Summit County.

Either party may request a temporary hearing, which is conducted by a magistrate who makes orders concerning parental rights, responsibilities and support. One spouse may be ordered to move out of the marital home. These temporary orders remain in effect until the court modifies them or the case ends.

When a case is contested, a status conference is held with a magistrate about four months after the complaint is filed. Each party completes an affidavit of assets and liabilities to be submitted at this time. The magistrate determines what issues need to be decided by the judge at trial. Ordinarily, only the attorneys attend this hearing. If a party does not have an attorney, he or she should attend the status conference.

A pretrial conference with the judge is held two to three months later. The parties and their attorneys meet with the judge to determine if their case can be settled. If an agreement can be reached at this point, the matter may be finalized. If not, a trial time is scheduled.

At trial, the plaintiff first presents his or her case, including grounds for the divorce, financial information, property and the welfare of the children. The defendant has the opportunity to present evidence to explain and dispute the plaintiff's evidence.

After all the evidence has been presented, each side may give oral or written arguments to explain to the court what he or she is requesting and why the request is reasonable and appropriate.

The court the makes a decision and files the final order.

If the case is uncontested, it is set for final hearing about four months after the complaint is filed. The defendant is notified but may not contest the grounds for the divorce. He or she may provide information on the allocation of parental rights and responsibilities, child support, division of property and spousal support. If there are substantial issues to be decided, it will be set for trial before the judge.

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