To each family going through divorce, it can seem like such an awful occasion that the suffering is unique and reserved for that group of people. However, divorce is actually far from unique; in the United States in 2013, 46,523 took place each week on average, as just about half of all marriages end in divorce.
This is why family law has grown to its current size, taking on specialized courts in many larger metropolitan areas. For each couple going through divorce, the legal process is relatively similar, even if the emotional turmoil seems one of a kind.
The first step in a divorce proceeding involves one party consulting an attorney and making the initial filing. In many cases, this is the person who feels that the other spouse has committed some offense against the marriage, such as infidelity, but often it happens that the parties are simply ready to divorce.
This is frequently the most emotional time during the entire divorce, which is why, particularly when children are involved, a judge will involve a set of temporary orders to protect the parties from harm until a few weeks have gone by and the raw emotion of the situation has subsided a bit.
Once temporary orders are in place to guide the relationship between the two spouses and govern access to the children, the next step is often mediation. Many judges are loath to put their own stamp on the relationship between two former spouses, particularly with regard to the handling of their children. In most cases (except in situations involving neglect or abuse), judges tend to believe that the parents know what is best and should work to put together a logistical situation as far as visitation and access go that will serve the best interest of the children.
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When children are not present, judges will often pressure the partners to move ahead with an agreement, because their caseloads are such that divorces without children or significant assets to divide need to happen quickly. In either case, judges order the parties to mediation. Most frequently, this takes place at the mediator’s office, either for a half or full day, depending on the complexity of the situation. Each party sits in his or her own room with an attorney (in most cases), while the mediator travels back and forth, carrying offers and suggestions and hoping that one of the two parties will turn out to be at least somewhat reasonable.
The march toward finalization and prove-up can be swift and short, or it can be long and tortuous. If both parties can set their emotions at least somewhat aside, then moving toward an agreement can be quick. However, the reason why family law is a field in which many attorneys have profited is that those emotions can be so difficult to put down. When mediation fails, divorcing couples either have to work things out by themselves, or when that fails, they have to listen to a judge decide what their relationship will be going forward.
Family lawyers are there to help you through each stage of divorce, and with so many taking place, it is important to find an attorney who avidly represents your interests.
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