Divorce Representation Process
Every client relationship begins the same way –with an initial meeting between the potential client and Cynthia Fox, which is almost always held in Cindy’s office, conveniently located just one block from the St. Louis County Courts in Clayton. However, in those cases where a meeting at our offices is impractical, Cindy can meet by telephone with a new client, such as a person who has relocated away from the St. Louis area, but still needs representation before a local court.
Initial client meetings typically last ½ hour. The prospective client should bring all the information they have that might be relevant to their situation. This would include anything that has already been filed on the case, such as a petition for divorce and any statements. This petition, as well as notices for hearings, typically have deadlines that should be adhered to, so if you are served with a petition or other notice, obtaining legal representation quickly is important.
At this initial meeting, you should discuss your current marital situation candidly with complete confidence that anything you say will kept with the utmost confidentiality. You should outline your concerns and the goals you are seeking to achieve. By all means, ask questions about the issues that concern you. Cynthia will also ask you questions and review the information that you brought with you.
Cynthia will identify options for you to consider and, where appropriate, recommend specific next steps and a plan of action. She will also provide you with an estimate of her fees for handling your case. The fee for a ½ hour initial consultation is $100.00. However, if you decide to retain our firm, your initial consultation fee (up to a maximum of $100.00) will be rebated against future fees, once cumulative on-going fees reach $500.00. Personal checks, Master Card, Visa, Discover credit cards and cash are all welcomed. (Cash is accepted only for the initial consultation.)
Every divorce case is unique, so any description of the process has to be general in nature. But, typically, these are the key steps along the way:
- The person initiating the divorce is required to file a petition with the court, while their spouse is required to provide a response to the petition.
- Each party is required to file with their petition or response a statement of their property (i.e. a list of all that they own and owe) as well as a statement of their current income and expenses.
- If there are children born of the marriage, each party is required to provide the court with a parenting plan addressing the issues required by law in such a plan, such as the custody schedule, decision-making, etc.
- Before the court will issue a divorce, husband and wife, working with and through their attorneys, will have to agree on an appropriate division of the “marital” property, the identification of separate property, while also agreeing on a parenting plan that is in the best interests of their children. Additionally, the court requires that the issues of financial support for any children and/or for one spouse or the other be addressed and resolved equitably before a divorce is granted.
- The process of accurately indentifying all property as well as each party’s actual income and expense can be relatively easy or difficult, depending on the complexity of each family’s circumstances, and depending on the ease of obtaining accurate information, and the willingness of the parties to be forthcoming and cooperative.
- Reaching agreement on the division of property can also be easy or difficult and is a potential source of conflict.
- However, questions about child custody, child support or spousal support (previously known as alimony) are often the most troublesome to resolve because they typically hit on important “hot buttons” for both husband and wife, and result in long-lasting consequences for each.
- If the husband and wife are able to reach an equitable agreement on all these issues, their attorneys will work with them and each other to prepare a final settlement that is then presented to the judge and court for its approval. Assuming the judge’s acceptance, the couple is divorced and a decree and order is issued.
- If the parties cannot resolve all the issues on their own, the case is then tried before a judge, with husband and wife each testifying as well as calling other witnesses, such as experts who can testify to the value of certain assets. Both sides will usually introduce as evidence much of the information that has been gathered during the case. The judge then will make the final decision about the division of property, issue a parenting plan, and determine the amount of child and spousal support to be paid, if any. Sometimes, though, a case taken to trial will still be settled between the parties before the judge makes his/her ruling.
Cases that are settled between the parties before going to trial are the least costly, financially and emotionally, for everyone involved. However, there are situations where the parties are so far apart, and the unresolved issues so important, that taking the case to trial is only way to bring the case, and the marriage, to an end.
That being said, Cynthia encourages every client to “keep their eye on the prize” as they go through this process. The “prize” is the opportunity to begin your life anew with your financial and emotional resources intact and game plan for making the rest of your life better than the past. She assists every client in identifying the goals most important to them and then works tirelessly to achieve them, while minimizing the acrimony and contentiousness that simply runs up the costs without any appreciable benefit to the parties.