Step three would start with a temporary orders hearing if you need one, and hopefully you don’t. A temporary orders hearing is only needed if you can agree on who’s going to pay the bills and how you’re going to see the children in the interim between when you file for divorce and when your divorce is finalized. Most people can come to terms on that. Who’s going to pay the car bill? Who’s going to pay the mortgage? How are we going to deal with groceries? We’ve got two places now. We have where mom and the kids are living, let’s say, and dad’s living in a separate place, or vice versa. How are we going to deal with now there’s more expenses? Two households, more expenses.
Usually people do that by agreement, and then do what’s called a stipulated temporary order. You just agree to it and the court files it, and then that’s how you’re dealing with things moving forward in terms of finances and children.
Then, once you’ve got all the financial disclosures done, you have your situation of how you’re going to handle everything temporarily, at that point you can try to settle the case (which would be a best case scenario). In order to settle the case you would have to put together a separation agreement, which is an agreement on how to divide up all the assets and all the debts of the marriage. If there’s a need for maintenance/alimony, that would go in the separation agreement as well.
if you have children, you will also need a second set of paperwork called a parenting plan that goes over where the kids are going to be when, how to deal with vacations, how to deal with Mother’s Day, how to deal with breakdowns if they occur between the two of you. Many, many factors to many to name in this blog go into a parenting plan. That also must be drafted and signed by both of you. If you have a signed parenting plan and you have a signed separation agreement, you can file those with the court, and in most cases avoid going to court at all.
There are some cases where only one party’s represented and there’s children involved and you would have to go to a final court hearing, but it would be an uncontested hearing because you’ve already got your paperwork, you’ve already made your agreements. But you would have to go in and the judge will say essentially to you “Do you agree to all of this? Have you had a chance to have an attorney review it,” etc, and then say okay and go ahead and make it your final divorce decree. That’s when it’s uncontested.
If you do have issues that you can’t come to an agreement on you might go through a mediation, and in some counties that’s required, to go through a mediation process. We have videos that you can go to to find out all about how to best use a mediation process. You can use mediation, or you might be required to use mediation. The mediator is there to help you agree. You can do that with attorneys or without attorneys, again, depending on your circumstances. Sometimes that works and you reach your agreements, and then we’re back to what I just talked about: filing your separation agreement and your parenting plan with the court.
If mediation doesn’t work and you still have issues, you may have to go to final hearing. Final hearing is your trial, essentially, where you go in and you argue before the court what you feel is the best scenario for your side of the argument, whatever it is. It could be financial. It could be about child support. It could be about parenting time. It could be about a multitude of factors.
What’s important to note is you don’t have to try everything. You might agree on almost everything and only go to trial on one or two things that you just can’t reach agreement on. Trial doesn’t have to be your entire divorce. It can be just a small piece that you can’t come to agreement on. Hopefully that is the case, because if it is about everything, it turns into a pretty lengthy trial and a very expensive situation.
At the end the court will create final orders in your case, and that will be your divorce decree. Essentially your parenting plan, your separation agreement, or any court orders that the court includes because of the things you can’t agree on, that will be your final divorce decree.