During the Montgomery County divorce process, a person should expect a very long and laborious process. It is very important for the parties to have legal counsel when filling for the dissolution of their marriage, especially if it is a contested divorce.

Some divorces take over a year from start to finish, depending on the contested issues, what the parties are arguing about, the court’s calendar, and a variety of other factors. If the case is uncontested, a divorcing couple could get a hearing within four to six weeks if the court docket allows it. An experienced divorce attorney could explain the litigation process, court procedures, what kind of evidence is typically needed to reach a final decree.

An Overview

The process of dissolving a marriage in Montgomery County begins with filing a complaint for absolute or limited divorce. The person filing is called the petitioner or plaintiff, and the other spouse is called the defendant. After the complaint is filed with the appropriate documents, the plaintiff must pay a fee of $165 to the circuit court for Montgomery County. After that, the petitioner would receive a summons by mail.

That summons, a copy of the complaint, and any additional paperwork filed would have to be personally and/or properly served to the defendant. There are several ways to do this. It is advisable for anyone filing for divorce to either seek the advice and counsel of an attorney or get free assistance to complete some basic forms at the courthouse, if they qualify. After the defendant spouse is properly served, they have a limited time to respond in writing and file an answer to the lawsuit. After they file their answer, the court would choose a date for a scheduling conference where both parties and their counsel must appear in front of a family law judge ⁠— also known as a magistrate.

It is at this point that the issues would be presented to the court, the dates would be set for the rest of the case, and matters would be determined to be contested or uncontested. On the day of the scheduling conference, the parties are given very important paperwork, and any unrepresented spouse would be advised by the court to retain a lawyer.

Contested Versus Uncontested Divorces

There is a big difference between a contested and uncontested divorce. A contested divorce is extremely lengthy, costly, and burdensome and may go on for well over a year. Additionally, a contested divorce typically involves litigating issues such as child custody, marital property, and support orders. When parties cannot agree on their marital problems, the Montgomery County divorce process is lengthened.

An uncontested divorce is much simpler, and the parties could get a hearing before a judge relatively quickly. If all the paperwork is filed correctly, an uncontested divorce in Montgomery County could move forward in as little as four weeks. If the parties have good legal representation, a solid separation agreement, and no contested issues, a hearing would take about ten minutes or so. It is important to have an experienced Montgomery County attorney represent a party at these hearing in order to achieve a favorable outcome on their behalf.

Dividing Marital Assets in Montgomery County

In Montgomery County, a person’s assets are determined by the court in an equitable manner. A judge must first determine whether an asset is a marital or non-marital property. The parties have an opportunity to agree or contest that it is non-marital or marital in nature. The court would have to determine whether it is marital or non-marital, the value of the property, and how those assets should be divided between the parties. Local courts are mandated by state law to seek the equitable division of shared property. Equitable does not mean equal, although it could end up being an even split. A judge must consider each case’s circumstances and facts into account when determining how assets are going to be divided.

Mediation, Arbitration, and Litigation

The role of mediation, arbitration, and litigation in Montgomery County marriage dissolutions is to help divorcing parties agree on their marital issues. However, if there was a protective order between parties or allegations of drug or alcohol addiction, family violence, or any other kind of abuse, the parties would be not required to go to mediation. Otherwise, they would be required to go to mediation. This alternative dispute resolution allows estranged spouses to sit down with each other in a confidential setting and talk about their marital issues. For example, mediation may allow those involved in custody battles to draft a parenting plan and avoid going to court.

If two people are not qualified to go to participate in alternative dispute resolutions, they may still agree among themselves to go to mediation outside of court. They could independently hire a mediator to try to work out some of their marital issues.

On the other hand, arbitration affects finances, marital property, and child or spousal support. This is also court ordered and required for most divorcing couples in Montgomery County. It is a very helpful part of the process which often results in a settlement.

If all else fails or if there are any issues remaining, the parties must continue with litigation. A judge would decide on a couple’s contested issues that could not be settled otherwise. For help with understanding the Montgomery County divorce process, reach out to a local attorney who has experience with these kinds of cases.