When you go to the case management hearing, mine was handled by the general magistrate, they will go over the list of papers you need to have. Bring in the copies of all of your papers that you have on hand from filing the dissolution of marriage and any mail you have received from the courthouse along the way. The checklist will help you get everything in order for your final hearing.
After you make sure that all paperwork is in order and you have copies of all financial records such as the debt owed in your name, the income of both parties, assets, and life insurance policies make copies and add it – because you will need it for the final hearing.
When you have everything in order you will call the judge’s assistant and set a date for the final hearing. They will usually give you a few and you pick the one that best fits you. If your spouse has an attorney they will try to set the date but remember you are an acting attorney so if the dates they choose don’t fit yours, don’t be afraid to tell them so.
Lessons I have learned through making mistakes. During my case management hearings, we never went over the financial obligations. Knowing what I know now if there are bills from the marriage that are in your name that you want your spouse to help pay, you need to provide copies to the court. If the bills are in your spouse’s name it is their responsibility to provide copies to the court. My largest bill that I am not willing to take on all on my own is in my name and is affecting my credit but with no support at this time I can only afford the main bills and I am not willing to take this marital debt on myself.
Unfortunately, I did not learn that lesson until the final hearing that turned out not to be the final. I will be contacting my credit card company to get a printout of my statement from January 2017 until we separated in November. The court can require him to supply money to pay for this. Something that you also need to be aware of is even though the court can order your spouse to pay past bills, child support, and spousal support it does not mean that they will but it will be on record and if your spouse ever comes into money on the books, you will get paid.
Getting records with no spouse involvement.
A subpoena duces tecum is a subpoena for production of evidence. I received indigent status, so I will be filing this next week to have his employers provide his income to me. In all of the stress of filing it on my own and dealing with the DVI at the same time, it is amazing how much I have forgotten legally.
I wish I had thought to subpoena them before the hearing. I hoped because he was in default this would not be necessary but since it seems to be one of the factors holding me back from spousal support I will go that route.
My husband worked for cash for many years because he could not hold a real job and hide money for his drug use – but he was supposed to be paying support on 3 of his older children. Over the 10 years we were married, he mostly worked landscaping for cash jobs and his child support built up. The government took our taxes every year and gave it to his exes. I am thankful this year will be different.
In the next part of my series, we will be discussing the parenting class.
What I thought was going to be an in and out and I get my way hearing had a few more steps. All of the months that my husband and I were still somewhat communicating, I tried on more than one occasion to get his check stubs and of course, he wasn’t compliant except once. Not enough for what I was looking for in the divorce.
A learning experience in the books for subpoena power.
On the plus side, I know the two places my husband is working for and filing the paperwork will be free. Due to already having indigent status with the courts, all I have to do is send them to his employers. I should have taken care of this step sometime in July to have it ready for the final hearing.
Hindsight tells me this would’ve been a lot quicker had I taken care of these steps earlier but there was no one reminding me of the steps.
So save yourself some trouble! If you don’t have check stubs, have tax returns, or anything to prove the amount your spouse gets paid, think ahead and file a nonparty subpoena* to produce records also called Subpoena duces tecum. Since he is in default he hasn’t produced anything and I should have thought better than to trust him.
*Editor’s Note: According to Cornell University Law, “under rare circumstances, a nonparty witness might have a ground for seeking a protective order under Rule 26(c) with regard to the manner of recording or the use of the deposition if recorded in a certain manner. Should such a witness not learn of the manner of recording until the deposition begins, undesirable delay or complication might result. Advance notice of the recording method affords an opportunity to raise such protective issues.” It is defined by the dictionary as “a writ ordering a person to attend a court and bring relevant documents.”
While in court, the general magistrate said some things to me that had me going back through statute on spousal support and since the law is the law I have to prove what laws I deserve the spousal support under. I have the law and now I need the proof that he can afford it. He will never be someone I can count on as he has never been in the last 12 years and continues to not be now. I will be working on that next week and I will write about that in this series. Think about the empowerment when this is all over with.
Enjoying this series? You might also be interested in our sister site, Divorce Your Narcissist.
When you make the decision to file for divorce on your own, you will realize quickly that there are a lot of things that have to be done. Once the court has the paperwork, your next step is to get your spouse served. Some states have process servers and some states just have law enforcement serve them. But the good news is that it is not something you will have to do. I worked with a process server and my husband was served within hours of me filing the paperwork because I knew that he was leaving the state and things would be a lot harder as well as expensive with him so far away.
He did call me after he was served and assured me I would get my answer. Of course, I am still waiting. There is a time limit for your spouse to answer the petition and it is usually 20 days or less, but if they miss that deadline, then your case will go into default and you will more than likely get what you’ve asked for. It does take a little longer to do it all on your own and without the other party participating but the savings and lack of contact make it worth it.
There will be a case management hearing; I had two, so that the court can make sure that you have all of your paperwork in its entirety and that you have done everything you needed to do. If your spouse is involved in the divorce they will be there also.
If you can both agree on the terms of the divorce, it goes a little quicker. But if not, just do your best to relax and know that it will come to an end sooner than later.For example, I filed for divorce January 10 and my final hearing was supposed to be August 24th (this didn’t go as planned, so the new final hearing October 8, 2018). It has been a long wait but I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.
We were both court-ordered to take a parenting class in order for the divorce to go through. Some states make it mandatory and some don’t. Most states want you to take the class in person but if there is some reason you can not attend an in-person class you can file a motion with the courthouse and ask the judge to approve you taking the online class but you will have to have a reason other than you do not want to. Because of my anxiety and C-PTSD, being in a room full of strangers while I was still stuck with the verbal and mental abuse was not an option. I actually took the class first and asked for permission later. Luckily my judge was understanding and it was accepted.
We have covered how to start the process of the divorce and also having your spouse served.
Now to start the waiting game. There will be a lot of that. My county has a web page for the clerk’s office that you can look at to see the activity on your case. Every page you filed is on there and you can keep an eye on it to see if your spouse has done their part.
Divorce is stressful any way you go about it. Know that you are a survivor and this is just another bump in the road. You have overcome so much more. Good luck SPANily! I look forward to hearing about your experiences along the way. You never know who your experience can help.
Check out our new sister site, Divorce Your Narcissist for more resources and information on divorcing your narcissist.
I know it is time.
I know they are toxic.
Divorce is so expensive.
I can’t afford an attorney.
I don’t know enough about the legal system to be able to do it alone.
Have those thoughts crossed your mind? I know they crossed mine when I was preparing to leave my narcissist. But as I stressed over these things, I realized something HUGE: If you have a simple divorce, with or without children, you are capable of filing a divorce on your own.
Even though my education is as a paralegal, filing for divorce was so daunting, partially because I had not worked in the field since I stopped working 11 years ago to raise my family.
Can I do it alone? How much is it going to cost? What if my spouse gets an attorney?
I have some things I would like to share that I learned along the way while filing for my divorce. Now that I am nearing the end of this journey that seems impossible, I have gained a lot of confidence in myself that I had been lacking from the years of abuse – and no matter the outcome I know I did right by my children.
Is money the issue?
If money is the issue that holds you back, you can go to the clerk’s office and ask to file indigent status. After filing my paperwork, spending half my rent money that was due and that I would struggle to replace, I learned the hard way that you can file your divorce at absolutely no cost to you if approved by the clerk of courts. I ended up being approved at a later date, but they did not return the $500 I already paid out.
You can also find a local domestic violence center near you. They may have a listing of pro bono attorneys that would be willing to take your case if you meet their criteria at no cost to you. There is a ton of help out there; you just need to figure out where to find it.
Where to begin?
You can start with an online search for your county and state in the US along with legal forms. I apologize that I have not learned about the process in other countries, but a Google search is still a safe bet to begin. After reading the instructions and figuring out which form best fits your situation, print out all of the pages you will need. This is usually not too hard to figure out.
After printing out the paperwork, complete every question. If it does not fit your situation you can put N/A on the line so the court knows it does not apply to you. It is very important that every line and every page is filled out in its entirety.
Once you have taken your time to fill out the paperwork, you return them to the clerk’s office to have them filed. You can also pick up the paperwork from the clerk’s office already printed and in order and it can be done with a small fee if you are unable to print them.
Even though filing for divorce alone without representation from an attorney seems impossible, the court system has made it a lot easier. And, if you get lucky, your spouse won’t respond and you more than likely get what you’ve asked for. If not, you have a little more work on your hands but so does your spouse – and you will be two steps ahead.
If you are thinking about starting the process of filing for divorce and you have any questions on how to start or help in finding what you need, please leave a comment and I will help in any way I can.
Stay tuned for more in this series!