By Molly Murphy
Cordell & Cordell, P.C., Jefferson City, Mo., office
As an associate attorney at Cordell & Cordell, P.C., I conduct several initial appointments a week for potential clients.
One of the most frequent questions I am asked is how fast can we get this done? In today’s economy and times, many clients want to streamline what can be a lengthy and costly process.
So how fast is fast?
The request for a quickie divorce can be for very many different reasons. Reasons can include an upcoming bankruptcy, change in living situations or even making permanent a long-time separation. I have also heard from more people than ever that they and their spouse or significant others have agreed on what to do with property, support and their children. As an attorney, I always advise my clients that we are working towards a settlement, but always preparing for trial. It is only to a client’s benefit if they can agree on terms with the opposing party. When clients receive their judgment from a Judge, they have allowed a neutral third party to issue an order on their lives, their children and their money. In working towards a settlement, clients have a say on their future.
In quickie divorces, clients need to remember that their attorney can only represent one party, not both. Frequently, the attorney represents one party, and the other party proceeds Pro Se. Pro Se means the party is representing themselves. The attorney for the moving party can prepare all of the documents and both parties can sign them. Frequentl,y both parties can share the attorney’s fees.
So how fast is fast? In the State of Missouri where I practice, the court can issue a divorce after 30 days have passed from the date of the initial filing. This can be done by filing all initial paperwork, and then filing final settlement paperwork by affidavits from both parties.
However, keep in mind that many other factors can come into play, even with a non-contested cause of action. Remember that your attorney needs to prepare your paperwork and get it on file first. Also keep in mind that your attorney can only make sure the signed final documents are on the Judge’s desk. They cannot insure that the Judge will sign them that day or even in two weeks.
In addition, most counties or jurisdictions have a required parenting class, if you have children. Judges will not sign final paperwork until both parties have completed this class. In divorces, Judges have to ensure that both parents understand the ramifications of divorce on their children.
Bankruptcy is also becoming a big reason people cannot proceed with their divorces as quickly as they would like. I would advise anyone seeking a divorce to consult with a bankruptcy attorney prior to consulting with a divorce attorney. Clients need to know their rights. One of the things both bankruptcy and divorce actions do is to force clients to face their property and debt. In bankruptcy, both parties can file together and then the debt is split between them. In a divorce, all property and debt is divided between the parties and each party takes on separate portions of the debt. Divorce attorneys do not recommend that their clients file for bankruptcy in the midst of their divorce as it can stay (or stop) the divorce action.
In our current economy, most clients cannot afford a lengthy or costly court battle. I would urge all clients or potential clients to look into all of their options before they begin any litigation.
Margaret “Molly” P. Murphy is an Associate Attorney in the Arnold, Missouri office of Cordell & Cordell, P.C. where she practices exclusively in the area of domestic relations. Ms. Murphy is admitted to practice law in the state of Missouri. Ms. Murphy was born and raised in St. Louis. She received her B.A. in Political Science and English Language and Literature in 1998 from the University of Tulsa where she graduated magna cum laude. Ms. Murphy received her Juris Doctor from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2001.