With over 30 years of experience, Jack Cope is a tough-minded attorney who will safeguard your income and property, your children and your peace of mind during the divorce process.
Once a party believes he or she will be in a contested divorce, that party should talk to a divorce attorney as soon as possible. The attorney can identify the legal issues that exist in the potential contested divorce and educate the client regarding Missouri law on those issues. Below, we discuss some of the contested divorce process from the filing of the petition for dissolution of marriage to the end of the case. This gives you a thumbnail sketch of a contested divorce from beginning to end.
A contested divorce in Missouri begins with the filing of a petition for divorce that is served upon the other spouse (normally by the county sheriff). If the other spouse does not file an answer within 30 days, the other spouse will be in default and the spouse who filed the divorce petition can proceed to take a judgment against the other spouse. Normally, however, the other spouse will hire an attorney who will enter an appearance in the case and file an answer for the other spouse. An interim domestic relations order immediately is entered by the court to prevent the parties from stalking each other, removing kids from the State of Missouri, wasting or concealing assets, or creating unreasonable debts.
Each party to a contested divorce is required to provide the other party with a statement of income and expenses, statement of property and debt, disclosure of all non-marital and marital property and debt, a parenting plan and child support calculation under Form 14 (if children are involved), pay stubs, and tax returns for the last three years.
In addition to those documents, each party may require the other party to disclose documents regarding all property, including property that may be concealed by the other party, and all checking account and credit card statements for the last several years, together with any other financially related documents.
Discovery in a contested divorce is when the parties ask formal questions (called interrogatories) of each other. The questions often ask about income, property, child custody, domestic violence, criminal convictions, drug use, and adultery. The subject matter and range of the questioning can be far reaching such as, “Have you at any time during the course of the marriage had sexual intercourse with another person other than your spouse?” In addition to asking formal questions of the other party, a party can require the other party to produce hundreds of pages of other documents in addition to the documents mentioned above. Another part of the discovery process is the taking of the depositions of the spouses, lovers, and any other person who may know evidence that a party can use at trial. Some attorneys in a contested divorce will take several depositions just to increase the attorney’s fee and “run up” the legal fees for the other spouse.
Parties often file motions asking the court to right some perceived wrong committed by the other party during the course of the divorce. Such motions include asking the court to modify the terms of custody or visitation with a child, award temporary maintenance, or award attorney's fees and suit monies to prepare for trial. Some attorneys file motions hoping to gain some tactical or strategic advantage over the other party. Such motions include objecting to technical forms of pleadings simply to run up the other party’s legal bill or filing motions to try to cast the other party in a “poor light” before the judge.
The trial of a divorce costs about 25% of the total cost of a typical divorce. Fortunately, most cases do not go to trial. By the end of the discovery process, the parties have a good idea how they will divide the property. The parties' tempers have cooled and the property is divided based upon practical circumstances. The opinion of a guardian ad litem appointed to represent the children of the marriage holds great sway with the judge. Where the guardian ad litem shares his or her opinion, before trial, as to whom should receive custody of the children, the parties often resolve their differences and set up a parenting plan along the lines recommended by the guardian ad litem.
Located in Springfield, Missouri, Cope Litigation & Transactions LC represents divorce clients throughout Southwest Missouri, including Greene and Christian Counties. We are strong, knowledgeable, and compassionate advocates for our family law clients before, during, and after contested divorce litigation.
Above all, we are devoted to excellence. We have a deep understanding of the Missouri divorce process, the tactics used by other attorneys, and the strategies required to protect your interests. Contact us by phone or online for a consultation.