Elements Of a Lawsuit

In divorce, as in any legal action, it is important to know what is going on.

A divorce is a lawsuit. One party is seeking relief from the other. That relief is at least dissolution of the marriage, but it could include child custody, child support, spousal support, exclusive use of a marital home, division of property, and other relief.

A divorce action begins the same way as any lawsuit. There is a summons, which, technically, calls the other party before the court, and a complaint, which tells the other party and the court what you, now called the plaintiff, want.

The other party, called the defendant, may answer the complaint either by agreeing that all of the relief sought should be granted, or that only some of the relief, or even none of the relief should be granted. The defendant may even counter-sue for divorce.

The papers will be followed by written discovery demands and, possibly, an oral examination of each party regarding assets and monetary matters.

There may be motions by either or both parties, for temporary custody, for temporary support, for temporary maintenance, or to force the other party to comply with unanswered disclosure demands. The motion possibilities are endless.

After all of the motions are completed, the case will be set down for trial. At trial a judge, and possibly a jury, may consider whether or not there were grounds for the divorce in the first place, who should have custody, what the terms or support and maintenance should be, and how property should be divided.

After the trial there will be a Judgment of Divorce which outlines all of the court’s decisions. In many cases, that is the end of the case, but in many cases the parties keep coming back to court to complain that the other has not done something required in the Judgment of Divorce.

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