The first step in the divorce process is retaining a lawyer who is reputable and experienced. It is also extremely important that the attorney you hire is someone that you like and trust. During your divorce, you are going to be discussing many of the most personal aspects of your life. You must also have confidence that your lawyer is capable of zealously representing your interests in court, being a good problem solver, and understanding you as an individual. You must remember that your initial consultation with a divorce lawyer is not only a time at which you receive legal advice, but also the time that you interview the lawyer to make sure that he/she is not only qualified, but also a good fit for you personally.
When interviewing divorce lawyers, it is important to ask how long they have been in practice, what areas of law they practice, how many divorce cases that they have be involved in and what they believe is their most valuable asset in assisting you with your case. Carefully listen to their answers and assess whether or not you feel comfortable speaking with them. During the initial consultation, if you feel uncomfortable or rushed, feel free to express your feelings with the lawyer and ask what other firms they might recommend. A good lawyer will always answer your question directly and not take it personally. A good lawyer wants you to feel comfortable and, from the moment you meet, wants only what is best for you.
After you hire your lawyer, the second thing you must determine is what your goals are and what you want. A capable attorney will counsel you and provide information about Utah law and what is, and is not, possible with regard to issues such as property division, alimony, child custody and child support. No attorney can ever make a guarantee. However, an experienced and capable attorney can provide you with information and devise a strategy for attaining goals.
The next step in the process is providing information that your attorney requests. All individuals who are going through a contested divorce in Utah must fill out a financial declaration. This form is required by the courts and, the sooner the information is provided to your attorney, the sooner your attorney can make a more specific assessment of your case.
After your attorney has sufficient information regarding you, a Petition for Divorce with be drafted and filed. All Utah divorces begin with a Petition. A Petition for Divorce is the technical beginning of your divorce with the court. In the Petition, your attorney provides the court with information regarding who you are, whether or not you have children, your assets and what you want the court to do by way of the division of your assets and child custody arrangements. After the Petition is filed, it is served upon your spouse. In most cases, your spouse has 21 days to answer.
In the event that you have been served with a Petition for Divorce, your attorney will file an Answer and, perhaps, a Counter-Petition for Divorce. The Answer is a response to your spouse’s Petition and either agrees or disagrees with your spouse's requested division of assets and child custody arrangement (if you have children). In most instances, a Counter-Petition is filed. The Counter-Petition is the way the your attorney communicates with the court about what you want.
After the Petition and the Answer and Counter-Petition are filed, the next step in your divorce is the discovery phase. In some instances, you may not know, for example, precisely what your spouse does or does not have in terms of money or other property. In other instances, your spouse may not know what you have. The court rules have a solution to this problem and it is called discovery. Your attorney will assist you in determining what is, and is not, information necessary to resolve your case.
In all Utah divorces, the parties are required to attend mediation. Mediation is a formalized negotiation in which the parties try to resolve their divorce without the expense and unpredictability of the court making the final decision. Generally, mediation will take place after your lawyer has all of the “discovery” needed to counsel you regarding a fair settlement. In some instances, this can happen within 30 days of filing for divorce.
If mediation is successful, there is no need to go to court. If it is unsuccessful, your case will be scheduled for trial. In Utah, it generally takes at least one year from the time the Petition is filed to a trial date. At trial, you put your case on and your spouse puts his/her case on. After all of the evidence and arguments are presented to the judge, the judge decides how to divide the assets and, if you have children, determines the child custody arrangement.
The Salt Lake City divorce attorneys at BartonWood make it their priority to see you through every part of this process. We will provide you with the representation and counsel necessary to make sound financial decisions and decisions regarding the best interests of your children. We welcome you to contact us for more information regarding our services.