By Daniel Exner
Cordell & Cordell
Waiting to finalize a divorce can be an agonizing experience. If you’re like many divorcing dads, it’s been a long time coming with months and even years of filings, motions, hearings, evaluations, meetings, etc.
So when the finish line is near and there is yet another delay, continuance, or minor point of contention your wife brings up, your frustration level can be stratospheric.
What options are available to you in order to finalize your divorce?
Two Paths To Divorce
In most jurisdictions, parties to a divorce can generally take two routes from the initial filing to the final judgment of divorce. They can negotiate and/or mediate and reach a comprehensive Marital Settlement Agreement on their own, or they can litigate all the contested issues.
Where I practice, parties may petition the court for a final hearing if they execute a Marital Settlement Agreement on all the issues after 120 days following the filing for divorce.
If the parties seek litigation, the court will usually require at least one “pre-trial” or “status conference” hearing to determine what the issues are going to be and guide the parties towards settlement. If the contested issues are not resolved, the court will set the case for trial.
The time between filing for divorce and receiving a contested trial will vary depending on the court’s availability. In my jurisdiction, it is not uncommon for a contested trial to occur sometime between eight months and a year after filing.
Finalizing A Divorce
If you and the opposing party have reached an agreement on all issues, you may be able to close your case in the near future. You can petition the court for a final hearing (or “uncontested trial”) to receive your judgment of divorce.
Courts in your state may require parties to file their final Marital Settlement Agreement in order to engage in a final hearing, but the opposing party’s refusal to sign the documents should not preclude your ability to end the case.
The key for the final hearing is the parties’ full agreement and not necessarily their signatures on a piece of paper. If you know there are no remaining contested issues, I would explore scheduling a final hearing date as soon as possible.
If you and the opposing party still have contested issues, and know that agreement is not possible, you may be able to request a trial date.
If you agree on some issues but not all, you may also enter into a Partial Marital Settlement Agreement on the resolved issues and limit the trial to the contested areas.
Whether you have a full agreement, partial agreement, or no agreement, you should be able to determine when a final hearing date or final trial is likely to occur in your case. Consult with an attorney in your jurisdiction for state-specific options available to finalize your divorce.
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