Discovering Facts and Defining Issues
While awaiting the hearing in your case, we will be defining the issues and obtaining the facts through investigation and discovery. Types of discovery include depositions (questioning a witness under oath), requests to admit (asking the other party to agree that certain facts are true), and interrogatories (questions to a party that he or she is required to answer under oath). Appraisers, actuaries (if pensions are involved), accountants, or psychological professionals may be consulted to assist with the case as needed by court order.
After discovery is completed, you and your attorney will discuss your goals and settlement strategies.
In most divorce cases, a mediator is appointed to assist the parties in reaching a settlement prior to the scheduled trial date. The mediator is usually chosen by the attorneys or by the judge assigned to the case. The mediator is a neutral third person, who has expertise in family law as well as alternative dispute resolution. Reaching a settlement at mediation is voluntary and usually requires compromise from both sides in order to settle the case. If a case is settled at mediation, the mediation agreement is reduced to a judgment of divorce and the case does not proceed to trial. Most cases settle at mediation.
Arbitration is a binding process that takes the place of a trial. The advantage of arbitration is that the parties, with the assistance of counsel, are able to choose their own person to resolve the case instead of the judge that is assigned to the action. If you place your case in arbitration, all disputed matters, which could include such matters as custody, parenting time, child support, retirement, spousal support, debt and division of property will be decided by the person that you and your spouse appoint as arbitrator. The arbitrator’s decision shall be binding.
The disadvantage of arbitration is that each party’s right to appeal the decision of the arbitrator is much more limited than a party’s right to appeal the decision of a trial judge.
The attorneys might call a meeting, with both parties present, and try to resolve as many issues as possible.
If a settlement is reached, the parties will sign an agreement containing all the provisions of the settlement. The parties may be required to approve the settlement in court, when it is placed on the record.
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