So you've decided to get divorced? This can be a very strange time. Initially, you might feel like you've failed. You may feel embarrassed, defeated . . . exhausted. But, in the end, it may be the best decision you ever make - for you and your family. Over 20 years ago, a very wise UCC Minister said, "Many marriages are made in heaven. But so are many divorces!"
Feel free to call me at (207) 467-3767 to schedule an initial consultation. The first half hour is free of charge. Typically, I require a $3,500 retainer (sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on the complexity of the case). I bill at $250/hour. And a written fee agreement is always required.
To get started in Maine, you or your attorney must prepare a Family Matter Summary Sheet, Complaint for Divorce, Family Matter Summons & Return of Sheriff Service (if the opposing party refuses to sign the Acknowledgement), Plaintiff's Confidential Social Security Disclosure Form, Plaintiff's Child Support Affidavit (if there are minor children), Certificate Regarding Real Estate (if you or your spouse own a home or land), and a $120 filing fee.
Next, the Court will schedule a Case Management Conference where the following issues will be addressed: 1) Interim arrangements for the children, including residence, parent/child contact, health insurance and child support; interim responsibility for payment of periodic debts; and interim spousal support (if applicable); 2) Issues in dispute; 3) Deadlines for moving the case to resolution, exchange of information (discovery), and mediation; 4) Payment of fees, including any mediation fee and attorney fees; 5) Date and time of next court event; 6) Referral to a Judge (when parental rights and responsibilities are in dispute, the parties may exercise their right to have a judge determine these issues); 7) Other matters, including attendance at parent education program, paternity testing, job search, the appointment of a Guardian ad Litem, psychological evaluations, and/or investigation by the Department of Health and Human Services. The Magistrate will enter a Case Management Order following the conference that will determine the course of the proceedings and may enter other orders, such as an interim order, or an order enforcing a child support obligation.
If the parties cannot settle the case in Mediation, the Court will ultimately schedule a final pretrial hearing and/or final hearing and the Court will decide any disputed issues. If the parties do settle the case, an uncontested hearing will be scheduled. In Maine, the moving party (usually the Plaintiff) must appear for a brief hearing in front of a Judge to answer questions to establish the Court's subject matter and personal jurisdiction and to make sure the parties know and understand what they are doing and that the marriage is truly irretrievably broken. Also, there is a 60-day wait period - meaning the Court must wait 60 days from service before conducting the uncontested hearing. In New Hampshire, there is no such requirement.
If the matter is contested, a final hearing will be held in front of a judge. The Judge will issue an order. If either party disagrees with the order, that party can appeal. An appeal must be filed within 21 days. The Maine Supreme Judicial Court will either affirm the trial court, reverse and remand (on issues of fact), or reverse (on issues of law).
Feel free to call me at (207) 467-3767 to discuss your case, including your rights and responsibilities.