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After the parties have completed discovery and are fairly comfortable that they have enough information, we encourage the parties to try to resolve their case, preferably by agreement rather than by trial.  We will ask my client to prepare a settlement proposal that sets out his or her preferences for the division of property and custody and support of children.  We will then contact the other attorney to open negotiations and see if we can reach an agreement.  If that is not successful, we suggest that the parties mediate the case, using a certified and skilled mediator to help facilitate a settlement.  We settle a very large percentage of our cases through negotiation or mediation and are able to save our clients a good deal of money by avoiding the expense of preparation for trial and time spent at the courthouse in trial.  We encourage mediation and settlement because it allows the parties to have a large say in how the case is resolved rather than submitting it to a judge or jury.

If we cannot reach a settlement, either party can ask that the case be set for trial.  If the case goes to trial, the parties will present their evidence on all issues and the court will make a ruling as to the division of property, and if there are children involved, custody and support.  The court divides the property in a manner that it deems "just and right", taking into consideration all of the circumstances of the parties and the children.  When deciding the children issues, (custody and support) the court considers the "best interest" of the children.  If a case goes to trial, there is obviously a serious difference of opinion as to what is "just and right" and what is in the children's "best interest", however, once the judge makes his or her ruling, it is final unless one party decides to appeal.

If the case is settled by agreement, one of the party's attorneys prepares an Agreed Decree of Divorce for both parties and their lawyers to sign.  One of the parties must appear in court to "prove up" the divorce and request that the court approve the settlement and sign the decree.

If the case is tried before the court and the judge makes a ruling, one of the party's attorneys will prepare a Final Decree of Divorce memorializing the court's decision for the court to sign.

If the parties agrees that they want a divorce and there is little or no property and there are no children, many spouses can usually reach an agreement and the divorce is considered uncontested.  Often, however, there are complex property or children issues involving separate and community property and the unraveling of many years of accumulation of property.  There are issues of the character of the property as either separate or community, the value of the property, the location and valuation of hidden assets, investments, insurance, retirement and other assets.  In such cases, it is wise for the parties to hire experienced counsel to assist them in locating, valuing and dividing the assets.  If they cannot agree, it may require court involvement to divide the estate.

Marital property, marital debts and liabilities, spousal support and attorneys fees will be discussed in another article.

Client Area

When you come to my office for our first meeting, if we agree that I will take your case, I will ask you to fill out a client information sheet, custody worksheet, if there are children, and a financial information sheet.

FAQ

This information is designed to assist you in answering some basic questions regarding family law issues.

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