And Now You Wait for a Divorce: Process Stage
Last week we discussed the Preliminary Stage of divorce, where you went to court to obtain temporary orders on division of debts, property, assets, custody of the children, parenting time, child support, and perhaps temporary spousal support. Now, it's your attorney's job to work your case, while you handle the new life you're about to experience.
The Process Stage is the very reason you have hired a divorce attorney. This is when certain procedures 1) must be done because it is required by the Courts; 2) have been ordered by your Court to be done; and 3) are performed to ensure everything is being looked at, obtained, recorded, and provided to attempt to receive the outcome best for you and your family.
Some of these procedures may include the following:
Discovery for You - this is a small word for a lot of work. Simply stated, discovery is questions the parties will have to answer and documents you will have to provide. You and your spouse will have to exchange financial documents such as bank records, taxes, bills, business records, income, medical records, and so forth. This part of your case can take a long to from start to finish. A party has at least 30 days to submits their answers, but usually extensions are needed. Sometimes a party may not cooperate in discovery and if that happens, motions and Court intervention may be necessary. This is one of the longest processes you and your attorney will go through. On average discovery can take 60 to 90 days to fully complete.
Third Party Discovery - an attorney may subpoena a parties' employer for employment records (i.e. work hours, retirement benefits, overtime pay, bonuses), a healthcare provider, schools, CPS/DCS, or phone companies. These records are typically necessary to request from the provider directly when a party is either not providing the records or there is belief the other party is not being truthful. There is a proper and legal way an attorney must go about requesting documents, they simply cannot just ask for them. Again, this is a process in which there is a waiting period - typically 45 to 60 days.
Child Related Reports - If custody and parenting time are at dispute, an attorney may request the Court appoint a Guardian ad litem ("GAL"). A GAL represents what is in the best interest of your child, so they will conduct an investigation and then issue a report to the Court. The Court may also order the parties submit to a custody evaluation. This process takes time and really extends out the divorce by several months or even 2 to 3 years before it is finalized.
Mediation - in most central Indiana counties, mediation is required before a final hearing can take place. Mediation is a cost you will need to prepare to pay, but your attorney will take care of selecting a mediator, scheduling mediation, and will attend it with you. Mediation will typically take place AFTER all of the above has been completed. Mediation is scheduled about 3 months out and once mediation day arrives takes about 2 to 10 hours to complete.
Continuances - one of the biggest reason for delays are continuances. A continuance is necessary when the attorney has a previously scheduled matter (such as a hearing or mediation in another case, vacation, or CLE), a Court's calendar becomes congested, or the party may have a conflict (i.e. vacation, mandatory work training, surgery). Sometimes continuances are needed because discovery and/or mediation has not been finished. Continuances happen and understanding that they are a part of the process will help reduce the frustration you feel when they are asked for and possibly granted.
Getting into Court for a hearing, especially in Marion County, can take a while. Courts are overwhelmed with cases and their calendars are packed. Even though a divorce in Indiana can be granted as early as 60 days, this is only when the parties have agreed to everything and simply need a final agreement submitted. Most Indiana divorces take anywhere from 9 months to 2 years and during this time you may be simply waiting around for the next step in the process. However, even though you may feel you are just waiting for something to happen or that nothing is happening, your attorney is constantly working and making things happen on your case. They are more thank likely performing one of the five steps above. Never hesitate to speak up though if you feel like your case may have been moved to the back burner.
Hang in there, you have survived the waiting game and that is a big accomplishment. Now final hearing is just around the corner. Once the Process State is complete, your divorce will start to move real fast. Next week we will be discussing the Final Stage of your divorce.
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