The divorce process can be confusing, and it’s helpful to have a sense of the stages in probate court. Here’s what you can expect generally.
Opening Pleadings: The Plaintiff’s complaint opens a new matter in probate court. The Defendant can respond with an answer and counterclaim. It may also make sense to file a motion for temporary orders or other pertinent motions.
Temporary Hearing: If a motion for temporary orders has been filed, the court will schedule a temporary motion hearing. This hearing is an opportunity to argue only the temporary issues in the temporary motion, such as a temporary time-sharing arrangement while the divorce is pending. This hearing is not an opportunity to argue permanent issues like property division. In fact, some judges don’t even like to hear custody issues on a temporary basis.
Discovery: Once you and your attorney strategize your position and arguments, you will begin collecting and organizing your supporting evidence. Evidence can be collected through interrogatories, requests for production of documents, subpoenas, and depositions.
Pre-Trial 4-Way: Before the pre-trial conference, the court expects you and your counsel to meet with your spouse and opposing counsel to settle the divorce. Try your very best to settle at this point! In the event you are unable to settle, you will need to draft and file a pre-trial memorandum before the pre-trial conference.
Pre-Trial Conference: The court will hold a pre-trial conference at which time the court really wants you to settle. You will present a nutshell summary of your theory of the case, and the court will give guidance on how the court might rule if the case went to trial. The goal of this feedback is to help you settle.
Trial: In the unfortunate case you have not yet settled, you will have a trial, which is an opportunity for each party to present evidence in support of his or her arguments. You should do your absolute best to settle before getting to this stressful and expensive point.
In between these hearings, you may have status conferences, case management hearings, motion hearings, and more as needed.