I often receive calls from people who are contemplating divorce or have just been served with a Petition for Dissolution. Invariably, the questions asked are how long will this process take, and how much does it cost. Frankly, there is no way to know because the answer to both questions depends entirely on the parties themselves. For instance, there are two paths to accomplish the ultimate goal of the divorce: contested divorces and uncontested divorces. I will address both.
Uncontested Divorce. An uncontested divorce is a divorce that proceeds from beginning to end without the need for costly hearings in the family court. This does not mean, however, that the parties will always initially agree on all of the issues related to the dissolution. What it does mean, though, is that the parties are prudent and pragmatic enough to realize that they, themselves, are best suited to resolve this issues rather than having a judge decide the outcome for you. Uncontested divorces are cheaper, more efficient, and far, far less costly. Uncontested divorces also lend themselves to preserving some semblance of a relationship post-dissolution, which is essential where children are involved.
Contested Divorces: A contested divorce occurs when the parties disagree on one or more issues related to the dissolution. It can be a disagreement as to whether or not spousal support is appropriate, the amount of spousal support, or the duration support, for instance. A perfect example of a contested dissolution is the recent McCourt case where the parties were litigating the issue of whether or not the Dodgers should be considered separate property or community property; the latter of which would have significant financial implications for Mr. McCourt. The hearings surrounding the separate property vs. community property issue no doubt cost the parties hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more. Of course, not every hearing is going to rise to the level or profile of this example; nevertheless, legal hearings, when the parties are represented by legal counsel, will obviously drive upwards the overall costs associated with the divorce. Moreover, you never know how the judge will rule in your case. I have seen cases that were clear-cut and one party should have clearly prevailed over the other, yet they did not. This happens because the courts are burdened with more cases than they can handle and are forced to plow their way thorough as many as cases as possible every day. There is only one way to avoid the uncertainty and cost associated with legal hearings—try and resolve these issues with the opposing party whether directly or through legal counsel.
If you are contemplating divorcing, or if you have just been served with a Petition for Dissolution, do your best to remain as calm as possible. The initial response to your spouse will set the tone for the entire divorce process, and hopefully, with any luck, set the tone for an uncontested divorce, which will reduce your costs, control the outcome, and serve to more quickly finalize the divorce itself.
Our office is located in Valencia, serving communities in the Santa Clarita and San Fernando Valley and more. If you have any questions regarding divorce, spousal support, child support, or questions specific to contested or uncontested divorces, please call Eric Martinelli with the Martinelli Law Group for a free consultation.