November 14

20 Smart Tips to Get Through Your Divorce Hearing with Ease


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divorce advice, divorce blog, divorce court, divorce tips


If the thought of going to a divorce hearing terrifies you, you’re not alone. Divorce court is terrifying – not only because it’s completely different than anything you’ve ever experienced before, but also because you have so much at stake. Actually, you have everything at stake.

If you want to make it through your divorce hearing successfully, you can’t waltz into it without first understanding how divorce court works.  If you expect a real divorce courtroom to be anything like what you see on T.V., you’re going to be sorely disappointed. You’re also likely to be wildly unprepared.

Unfortunately, being unprepared in divorce court is never a good thing.

Stressed man with eyes bulging trying to survive his divorce hearing

What’s the Difference Between a Divorce Hearing and a Trial?

Before you can start to get yourself ready to go through your divorce hearing, you first have to understand exactly what a divorce hearing is.

Strictly speaking, a divorce hearing is a court proceeding at which a judge takes evidence and makes a decision about some issue in your divorce. The “evidence” may be in the form of written documents, or digital records (like email). Or it may be actual testimony from you, your spouse, or another witness.

So, what’s the difference between a divorce hearing and a divorce trial?

While people often use the terms “divorce hearing” and “divorce trial interchangeably, a divorce hearing is actually different from a divorce trial in 3 main ways:

1. A divorce trial happens at the end of your divorce. A divorce hearing can happen at any time during your divorce.
2. Because divorce hearings happen while your divorce is still going on, the judge’s rulings at the hearing are often only temporary. The judge’s rulings at trial, however, are final.
3. At a divorce trial, a judge will usually decide ALL of the outstanding issues in your divorce. A divorce hearing, however, generally only involves one or two specific issues in your divorce.

(NOTE: Your final divorce judgment usually (but not always) will replace every temporary ruling the judge made in your divorce. To avoid any confusion, you should definitely talk to your divorce lawyer about what will happen to any temporary court orders that were entered while your divorce was pending!)

Close up of a divorce judge's hand banging a gavel in a DIY divorce.

Typical Divorce Court Hearing Issues

Divorce court hearings can be held on a variety of different issues. Some of these issues are:

  1. Temporary Custody (in Illinois this would be a Temporary Allocation of Parental Responsibilities);
  2. Temporary Child Support;
  3. Contribution to a Spouse’s Divorce Attorney’s Fees;
  4. Temporary Spousal Support;
  5. Discovery Disputes;
  6. Issues Surrounding Your Home (i.e. Who Gets To Live In It And Who Pays For It While The Divorce Is Pending):
  7. Protective Orders;
  8. Contempt of Court for Not Following Court Orders;
  9. Temporary Restraining Orders; and
  10. Other issues that need to be decided before trial to move your case forward.

The way that a divorce hearing is conducted to resolve those issues, depends a lot on where you live, and how the court system in your area operates. Even still, most hearings are conducted in a fairly similar way.

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What Happens in a Divorce Hearing (in General)

The divorce courtroom that you walk into may have paneled walls, impressive furniture, and a white-haired judge who looks like he’s straight out of a Hollywood movie. But, it probably won’t. 

Real courtrooms can be beautiful. But many of them are old, outdated and seriously cramped for space. Real divorce judges come in every size, shape, gender, and age.

The way that your divorce hearing will be conducted varies depending upon where you live, and how your particular court system operates. Some divorce court systems use hearing officers to handle preliminary matters.  Others only use judges: your divorce judge conducts every hearing him/herself.

Regardless of who rules on your case, most divorce hearings proceed in a very similar way. The clerk calls your case. You, your lawyer, your spouse, and your spouse’s lawyer then either all step up to the judge’s bench, or you sit at tables in the courtroom while the hearing proceeds.

The lawyers will do most of the talking at the hearing. You may or may not be asked to testify during the trial. If you are, you will have to swear to tell the truth before you testify. (Yes, this part really is like TV!)

The lawyers will argue your case for you. If you don’t have a lawyer, you will have to argue your case yourself. That is NOT a great idea, but if you have no lawyer, you have no choice.

After the hearing is over, the judge will issue a ruling (decision) on the issues presented. That ruling generally (but not always) stays in place until the end of your divorce.

How to Get Through Your Divorce Hearing with Ease

If you want to get through your divorce court hearing successfully, you must be prepared. That preparation starts with knowing how to physically get to the right courtroom at the right time.  (If you’ve never been to court before, it’s not as easy as you might think!)

It also includes knowing what to expect in the divorce hearing itself, and how to conduct yourself appropriately.

Here are some of the things you need to know.

Smart young girl with glasses and a graduation cap: educate yourself

20 Tips to Help You Prepare For (and Get Through) Your Divorce Hearing

 1.     Be Smart About What You Take With You To Court.

 Most (if not all) courts require you to go through a metal detector before you get into the building. That means that you are not going to be allowed to carry in guns, knives, explosives, and other dangerous weapons into the building. (I once got stopped for carrying in a pair of scissors … and I’m a lawyer!)

You also won’t be able to take in coffee, tea, or liquids. In some courthouses, you can’t bring cameras to court. (That means that if your cell phone has a camera in it [and whose doesn’t?!] you’ll have to leave it in the car or you won’t be allowed in the courthouse. So, ask your attorney, or check out the court’s website, about what you are permitted to bring into court before you go there. )

The bottom line is: if you couldn’t get through an airport carrying something, you probably won’t be able to get into a courthouse with it, either.

 2.     Know the Court Rules about Cell Phones, Cameras, etc., BEFORE you go to Court.

Most judges won’t let you use cell phones in court. No judge will let you take pictures or record anything in court. All judges will get testy if your cell phone goes off in court.

So, if you do nothing else before you walk into a courtroom: TURN YOUR CELL PHONE OFF!

Also, if you have to use your cell phone while you are in the courthouse, only make calls when you’re outside the courtroom. Also, be aware when you’re in court you are in a public place. ANYONE can listen to your conversation. So, unless it’s urgent, having a conversation with anyone while you’re in court is generally not a great idea.

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3. Get to Court Early.

You can never know how long it is going to take you to get through security and into your courtroom.  Unfortunately, when you’re supposed to be in court at a certain time, that’s the time you need to be IN THE COURTROOM. Just being “in the courthouse” at the designated time doesn’t count.

What’s more, sometimes court rooms get changed. (If one judge is sick, all of the cases on his/her call may be transferred to another judge that day.) That means you may have to play “musical courtrooms.”

Since you don’t know where you’re going, and because judges don’t like it when you’re late, do yourself a favor and get to court early.

4. Expect to Wait.

Just because you get to court early doesn’t mean that your case will be heard right away. 

Unless your case has been specially set for a hearing at a time when no other case is scheduled (which is rare) there will be LOTS of other cases set for hearing at the exact same time as yours. The judge may go through all of the cases that just need status dates or quick decisions first, and then do the hearings. Or, the judge may go through each case in the order listed on the court call.

The precise time that your case is called will depend on how your judge manages his/her court call. So don’t assume that you will get out of court in anything less than a half-day … ever.

Attractive smiling girl in a dress and suit jacket.

5. Dress Appropriately for Court. 

When you go to court you need to show a little respect. Showing respect starts by dressing appropriately for court.

Your clothes should be neat, clean and pressed. Don’t wear anything provocative or weird. If you have a bunch of tattoos and piercings, cover them up. (Yes, you have the right to express yourself through what you wear. And, of course, the judge is supposed to decide your case based upon what you say and do, not what you wear. But judges are human too! Be smart.)

When in doubt, dress like you would if you were going to church with your grandmother. If grandma would approve of your attire, chances are the judge will too!

6. Don’t Be Surprised if Your Case Gets Continued.

Hearings and trials get continued all the time. So even though you need to be prepared for your hearing IN CASE it happens, you also can’t let yourself get too upset if it doesn’t happen. (Sorry!)

Even if your case has been set for a hearing on a particular date and time, that doesn’t mean that the hearing will really take place. 

Court calls, like airlines, are always overbooked. Most of the time, enough cases fold that the judge actually has time to hear the cases that need hearings. But sometimes, everything that was set to go actually goes. If no other judge is available to pinch-hit, some cases get bumped.

(Yes, that sucks. But that’s just the way the system works.)

7. Hearings are Time-Limited.

Just because you may want to spend a lot of time presenting the judge with all of the facts you think are important in your divorce, that doesn’t mean the judge will GIVE YOU a lot of time to do so. Judges usually only allot a certain period of time for hearings. Your divorce hearing may get an hour or two. Or it may get a half-hour or less.

Occasionally, divorce hearings may be conducted for days. But that’s rare. So it’s critical that your lawyer presents the most important, relevant evidence and law in a very short time.

The exact evidence and arguments that will be the most important in your case will depend upon the issues you are presenting to the court. Your lawyer will know what documentation you will need to prove your case.

Make sure to check with your divorce lawyer in advance so that you bring all of the documentation you need when you go to court.

8. Not Everything You Care About is Legally Significant. 

When you are going through a divorce and your heart is like a throbbing piece of raw meat, it’s easy to over-react to the stupid things your spouse does. When that happens, you will be tempted to call your lawyer in a panic, demanding that you go to court immediately!

The problem is that a lot of things that you find to be completely unacceptable have absolutely no legal significance. So either your lawyer will try to talk you out of running to the judge about those issues, or s/he will let you run up your legal bill going to court for hearings you are almost guaranteed to lose.

Either way, it will seem to you that your spouse is “getting away” with all kinds of craziness.  Maybe s/he is. But, if you’re smart, you will pick your battles wisely and only go to court when you have no choice.

9. The Judge May Try to Resolve Your Issue Without a Hearing.

Judges like to settle issues without a hearing. While that may seem counter-intuitive, the truth is that judges are busy! Settling issues is usually quicker than holding a hearing about them. So many judges will try to settle your issues before your lawyers dive into a full-blown hearing.

If the judge tries to help you settle whatever issue you were going to be presenting to the court, you may be asked to compromise. So think about what you would/would not be willing to compromise on BEFORE you go to court!

While compromising might not be what you want to do, settling on your own will give you much more certainty and control over what happens in your divorce. For that reason, settling is almost always our best choice (unless your spouse is being completely unreasonable).

At the same time, settlement conferences take time. So, if the judge holds a settlement conference, and you don’t settle your issues, you may not have time to finish your hearing. In that case, you will have to come back to court for your divorce hearing again.

Upset man on the witness stand at his divorce court hearing while judge confers with lawyer

10. Understand That The Lawyers and the Judge are Colleagues.

It can be unnerving when you are in court and you hear your lawyer and your spouse’s lawyer laughing with the judge behind closed doors (or even in open court!).  It seems disrespectful to you and to what you’re going through. 

What you may not realize is that the lawyers and the judges work together all the time. They may not be “friends,” but they probably have had many cases together. They know each other.

That’s actually a good thing.

If your lawyer and your spouse’s lawyer hate each other, they will fight tooth and nail over every little thing. Meanwhile, YOU will pay for that fight. You don’t need that.

So when you see or hear the lawyers laughing while you are desperately trying not to fall apart in the middle of the courtroom, don’t take it personally. Really, it’s not about you.

11. Real Court is Not Like TV.

Going to court is one of the most stressful yet anti-climactic events you will ever experience. 

The lawyers and the judge speak in a language you only sort of understand. Most of the time, you don’t get to talk. You never get to tell your whole story. A lot of the time, you’re not even sure what’s going on. Then, suddenly, the entire hearing is over and the clerk is calling the next case!

The end result is that, even if you “win” your hearing, you’re probably going to leave the courtroom feeling empty and confused. Of course, if you lose, you’ll not only be confused. You’ll be angry too. While that sucks, it will suck less if you’re prepared for it.

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12. Be Prepared to See (and Maybe Sit Next to) Your Spouse. 

It’s one thing to know in your head that you will see your spouse in court. It’s quite another to be sitting next to him or her right before you are about to be locked in battle over some issue that you find enormously upsetting. 

If you can get to court early and find a spot that’s far away from your STBX, that can help.

Meanwhile, do your best to keep your cool. It also helps if you interact with your spouse as little as possible while you are in court.

13. Do Your Best Not to React Emotionally During the Hearing.

When your spouse (or your spouse’s lawyer) is talking in court, control yourself!

Don’t roll your eyes, sigh, or interrupt and scream, “That’s not true!” 

Your credibility and demeanor are important. If the judge feels that you are being disruptive or disrespectful the judge will weigh that against you. (Sorry! But forewarned is forearmed!)

If you feel that your spouse is lying, quietly pass a note to your lawyer telling him/her exactly what is untrue.  Your lawyer can cross-examine your spouse at the appropriate time.

Finally, wait until it’s your turn to talk. Remember, your hearing time is limited. The more you interrupt, the more time you waste.

14. If You Testify, Stay on Point. 

When you finally get a chance to testify, you may get the urge to tell the judge everything.

Don’t do it!

Launching into a long-winded story filled with irrelevant details will either bore or aggravate the judge. Remember, you don’t have all day to tell your story!

Only answer the questions that you are asked. Keep your answers short. Don’t volunteer information.

While you may not get the emotional satisfaction of having been able to “tell your story,” you probably will present a much more legally compelling case.

Man in court swearing to tell the truth while having his fingers crossed behind his back - lying in court

15. Don’t Make Stuff Up! 

When someone asks us a question we don’t know the answer to, many times we give that person the answer we think they want to hear. It’s just human nature.

We don’t mean to lie.  We just don’t want to disappoint the questioner. So, we guess at what we think the answer “should” be, even when we don’t have the foggiest idea of what the answer is.

Don’t do that when you’re testifying!

If someone asks you a question and you don’t know the answer, say, “I don’t know.” If you’re nervous and can’t recall something, admit, “I can’t recall that.”

Finally, if you don’t understand the question, say, “I don’t understand what you’re asking.” Never, ever make up an answer. Period.

16. Answer the Question.

When a lawyer asks you a question, answer it!

Don’t play dumb! Don’t beat around the bush and pretend you don’t understand something that is patently obvious.

Your credibility is an important element of your case. If the judge doesn’t believe a thing you say, you’re toast.

So, don’t try to be smart and avoid answering tough questions.

It’s much better to admit the truth, even when it’s hard. In the long run, that will get you much farther than pretending that the only thing you can remember when you’re on the witness stand is your name.

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17. Don’t Argue With Your Spouse’s Lawyer.

When your spouse’s lawyer is trying to make you look bad, it’s natural to want to defend yourself.

That’s exactly what your spouse’s lawyer is counting on.

S/he is trying to make you lose your cool. S/he WANTS you to get upset and argue with him/her. When you do, you’re more likely to say things that you’ll later regret.

When you’re emotional, you’re also much more likely to blurt out information you would never have otherwise disclosed. You may actually give your spouse’s lawyer information that s/he could NEVER have gotten out in front of the judge in any other way.

That’s bad … and it’s dumb!

So, when you are testifying in court, NEVER argue with your spouse’s attorney – even if s/he is wrong! Let your attorney handle your spouse’s attorney. You will do best if you keep your cool.

18. The Judge (or Hearing Officer) Will Make a Decision Based Upon the Evidence Presented.

Hearings are always based on limited information.

Judges (and hearing officers) can only decide cases based upon the law and the evidence presented to them. If certain evidence is not presented at the hearing, it doesn’t count.

The problem is that, since you only have a limited time to present evidence, it’s almost impossible to get everything put before the judge in the limited time allotted to you. So the judge is rarely making a decision based on EVERYTHING you’d like him/her to know.

Yes. That sucks. And, no, it might not be fair. But that’s the way the system works. So KNOW that before you go to court!

(That’s why settling your case is usually smarter than letting the judge decide it.  Rarely, if ever, do you get to tell the judge your entire story.)

19. Losing a Hearing Hurts, But It’s Not the End of the World.

Temporary court orders are exactly what they sound like – temporary. But that doesn’t mean they’re not important.

Hearings on issues like child custody (i.e. decision-making responsibility) and parenting time arrangements can dramatically affect your life, and your kids’ lives, for as long as your divorce is pending. What’s more, once a parenting schedule has been set, it can become set in stone.

That’s why it’s so important to put your best foot forward and be totally prepared for every court hearing that happens. That’s also why settling out of court makes so much sense. Once the judge has ruled, you have to live with that ruling whether you like it or not!

(NOTE: If the judge has issued a ruling you disagree with, you may have another chance to present your arguments at trial. (But don’t count on it!) Plus, even if the judge DOES grant you a re-hearing (which is rare) s/he may make a different ruling. Or you may lose again.)

Stern looking older judge looking down from the bench with a law book in front of her.

20. The Judge’s Ruling at a Hearing Usually Stands Until Your Divorce is Over.

Once you’ve had your hearing and the judge has ruled, you will have to live with the judge’s decision for some length of time – usually until your case is tried or resolved.

Of course, like everything else in the law, that “rule” isn’t absolute. Sometimes you can get the judge to reconsider his/her ruling. Sometimes circumstances change so the ruling can be changed.

Still other times the judge will include a time limit within his/her ruling (e.g. the judge may order you to pay spousal support for x months, after which time the judge will revisit the issue).

But, most of the time, once the judge has ruled on an issue, the proverbial “horse” is out of the barn. If the horse has run in a direction you don’t want it to go, that can really hurt!

Getting Through Your Divorce Hearing With Ease 

Let’s be honest. There is nothing “easy” about going to divorce court. Divorce hearings are stressful and full of uncertainty. But, if you’re careful, and you prepare well, you can get through them successfully.

That doesn’t mean that you are guaranteed to win every hearing you have. Even if you have the best lawyer on the planet, that just doesn’t happen.

But, if you understand how divorce hearings work, and you take these tips to heart, you stand a much better chance of getting through your divorce court hearing with confidence and maybe even a little bit of class.

____________
Another thing that can help you understand what you need in your divorce, as well as your divorce hearing, is a checklist. (HINT: Lawyers use them all the time!)

Get your  FREE DIVORCE CHECKLIST NOW. Just CLICK THE BUTTON!  

Send me My FREE Divorce Checklist

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  • Karen, I have been married for 20 years. In the past few years my husband and his mother have decided he needs to be single. They decided it would be better to take me off of all joint bank accounts, and my husband even went so far as to sign our family home over to his mother, without my knowledge. Stating that they did this to prevent me from getting it in a divorce. The house was only in my husband’s name, which I didn’t realize. We built the house together in the 11th year of our marriage. We are currently still legally married, however, he and his mother have now denied me access to our home and all my possessions there within, even going so far as to call the police on me and have me removed for trespassing. What legal recourse do I have? I have filed for seperation, but would like for my daughter and I to be able to go back to our home.

    • You need a lawyer asap!

      I can’t tell you exactly what your legal options are because I can’t give legal advice online, or outside of Illinois. But, you really need to talk to a good divorce lawyer in your area as soon as possible.

      Time is not your friend in this. The longer you wait, the more chance your husband will have to take actions that you may not be able to correct or change. I know that getting a lawyer may not be something you really wanted to do. But, it’s what you need.

      Good luck.

      Karen

      • His mother doesn’t have any rights. Get u a divorce lawyer and have all documents with u even though the house was in his name it anything purchased during your marriage belongs to the both of you.

    • Hi Karen!
      I’ve been married for 16yrs. I left my husband a year ago. We have 3 small children. We’ve been to 2 mediations and are not able to agree on much. No divorce or parenting plan has been signed off on yet.
      My stbx was a stay at home dad. He couldn’t ever keep a job. He did drugs (mainly marijuana…which I wasn’t ok with) I had to hire a nanny and a house cleaner because he couldn’t and wouldn’t fulfill the role as a stay at home parent.
      His parents (my ex-in-laws) have moved back to TN from FL to help my Ex out while he is away in Minnesota working for the FAA.(his first real job at 42yo) My ex wants his parents to fill in the gap of parenting our kids while he is away during “his” time. I’m not ok with that…since I am completely capable of having MY kids with me when my ex can’t be in town.
      I want to go to court now. My question is…do judges or would a judge allow my ex’s parents to fill in that gap? Do judges even allow the grandparents to be part of the equation? (I’m not trying to keep my kids from their grandparents…but would a judge allow grandparents to fill in that gap?)

      • I wish I could answer your question, but that’s a legal question that I can’t answer online. The answer will also depend upon the culture of the judges in your area. Your best bet would be to ask those questions of a good divorce lawyer near you.

  • i filed for divorce iam permanently disabled married for 20 years wife works for the United States postal service for 30 years stay home dad kids are older now youngest is 20 my wife knows she might have to pay alimony she faked a injury and is out on comp but. goes out oartying all the time and she sings at different events she has held on to her financial affidavit untill i had to request a judges intervention what can i exspect

    • I wish I could tell you exactly what to expect, but I don’t have a crystal ball. That being said, I can tell you that human behavior is consistent. If your wife was willing to fake an injury to lower her alimony payments, she’s probably willing to be dishonest in other ways just to get the upper hand. Whether or not she will be successful is hard to say.

      I suggest that you get a good lawyer who can help you get to the bottom of what’s really going on. Ask your lawyer what your realistic chances are of getting support. Find out how much you are likely to get and for how long. Ask how much it will cost you to try to prove that your wife is faking her injury. See if you can have a clause put into your divorce agreement that says that if your wife starts making more money, you can also get more support.

      Once you have all this information, you will be better able to decide whether fighting for more support will be worth it to you or not.

      Hope that helps.

      Karen

  • Hi. I have been married a little over a year. And my husband and I decided to call it quits. We do not own a hime. We do not have any children together. The only thing we “share” are the cars that are both in my name. We have agreed to refinance plans to reflect each the owner of one particular car. I do not want alimony. I just want to go out separate ways. Out hearing is scheduled for June. Is a lawyer necessary? I do not have them means neither does my husband. I just want this all to be over with. 🙁

    • Getting legal advice during a divorce is always a good idea. But, that doesn’t mean you need to hire a lawyer to stand by your side from start to finish.

      Your circumstances seem pretty simple and clear cut. What you didn’t mention is whether your husband agrees with you on every issue. If so, getting a divorce without a lawyer will be easier. If not, then you definitely need legal advice. (You also didn’t say whether your husband has a lawyer. That makes a difference, too.)

      You can hire a lawyer for a one hour consultation. You can ask the lawyer to review your paperwork and let you know if it’s okay, or if you’ve missed anything. Doing that will cost you a few hundred dollars. But it will buy you peace of mind.

      Can you go it alone? Of course. Will you end up okay? Lots of people do, but you have no guarantees. A small investment in an hour of an attorney’s time now could save you from a world of heartache later.

      Karen

  • Karen, I have a hearing schedule for tomorrow. I am very anxious and nervous. I’m not bringing a lawyer with me. My spouse is out of the country , he went to live back in Portugal. He agrees to the divorce and had signed all the papers and documents. But when I filed for the divorce I filed for a 1B instead of a 1A by mistake,as if he didn’t agree to the divorce. I had to send the documents for him to sign in order to change the case but I won’t be getting these papers for another month. Any tips for tomorrow on how I should present this case in front of the judge tomorrow…. Thank you!

    • I’m so sorry I got to this late. Unfortunately, with all of the work I have to do, and the number of emails and comments I have to respond to, I can’t respond to everyone every day.

      I hope your hearing went well.

      Karen

  • Hi Karen,
    My husband and I have amicably decided to divorce after 8 years of marriage and 12 years of living together. He filed for divorce and hired a lawyer, but I do not have the financial means to hire a lawyer for myself. We have agreed to settle, and because he has controlled my life financially for so long (I have been a stay-at-home mom for most of our time together while he works full time) I’m not going to ask for Alimony or child support. I really want nothing from him asside from the funds he is going to give me for buying me out of the house, which is $25,000. I feel like I may be selling myself short, but I’m just ready to move on and do this on my own, without him financially supporting me. We have two children together and I want to move out of state as soon as possible with our youngest, who is two. We have agreed that he will keep our oldest, who is 10. We own our home, he has obtained many assets throughout our marriage, and he owns the cars. I have nothing whatsoever in my name because he makes the money and pays the bills while I stay home and raise our kids. I also have no assets or anything of value as far as possessions go. Is there any advice you can give me so that I can be prepared to represent myself in court? I have never gone through a divorce before, but I am my STBX’s 3rd wife. I don’t want to seem completely naive to the judge by not asking for anything. Am I being stupid for not asking for more?

    Thanks!!
    Joanna

    • Joanna,

      I would never tell anyone that they were stupid. You are definitely not stupid. However, based on what you said, I will tell you that you are being EXTREMELY naive and are well on your way to making what could quite possibly be a HUGE mistake! You are about to do something that you will likely regret a LOT after your divorce is over.

      Please, please go get some legal advice! Many lawyers give initial consultations for free. A lot of states have laws that will require the spouse with money to pay attorneys fees for the spouse who has no money. So, there are ways for you to get legal advice, even though you think you can’t afford it. Plus, even if you have to put $500 on a credit card, that will probably be the best $500 you ever spent.

      I don’t want to create a conflict, or make your divorce worse than it otherwise would be. But, there are so many problems with the scenario you laid out here, that you truly owe it to yourself — and to your kids — to find out what your real options are! To do that, you need to talk to a lawyer in your area.

      Don’t represent yourself. Don’t go through this alone. Please talk to a lawyer. You can do what you want to do after you’ve gotten proper legal advice. You can ignore the advice if you choose to do so. But you owe it to yourself to make an informed decision. That’s NOT what you’re doing right now. (Sorry!)

      Good luck.

      Karen

  • My husband has filed for divorce and the hearing is in 3 weeks. I now live 6 hours away. I’m in agreement with our no-fault divorce, and I do not plan to attend the hearing due to the distance. My only concern is that he carries my daughter’s (Not his child) medical insurance. I do not have benefits with my job but have been applying and seeking full time employment with benefits. He plans to drop my daughters coverage as soon as we are divorced. Can I request for him to continue paying her medical ins. until I have a job with benefits? Would the judge even consider awarding that if I am not at the hearing?
    Cindy

    • I would definitely talk to a lawyer in your area about this. I’m not sure whether the judge would make your husband continue to carry medical insurance for a child who is not his, but you need to talk to a local lawyer and find out! (… and soon!)

      Meanwhile, I would start investigating “Plan B.” Try negotiating with your husband and see if there is any way he will (or even can) continue to insure your child until you can get coverage for her. Get in touch with a health insurance broker and see what your options are for getting other medical insurance for your daughter. She may be eligible for insurance through the state. Also, if her biological father is around, I would see if HE has insurance he can put her on.

      If all else fails, I would consider attending the hearing and seeing what the judge will do. That’s not a great option, and the judge could say “no.” But if you don’t try, the answer will be “no” for sure, so you have nothing to lose.

      Karen

      • Hello karen I am going trough divorce and my husband he’s really hiding person he has lots of money that he doesn’t want to share with me and I don’t have family and no friends I don’t speak English very well I don’t know what to do he filed divorce and forced me to sign the volunteer appearance for him what should I do please let me know?

        • I wish I could help you, but what you really need is a good divorce lawyer in your area. There’s not much I can do for you online. You really need a divorce attorney. You can try going through the Legal Aid office in your area. They might be able to help you.

          Sorry I can’t do more.

          Karen

  • Hi my name is Laurie I’m 28 yrs. Last March of this year I filed for divorce, we have been separated for over 5yr. Our separation was due to he’s infidelity he now has two kids, oldest one 5/6yr old we had no kids, I filled under with no kids A1 and no goods in between (financial or material) We have scheduled for the hearing date on this following Friday he has decided not to go and send he’s lawyer, he’s illegally in USA so he’s not to of a court person. Due to him having a lawyer should I be worried and hire a lawyer as well or should I wait to see what he has under he’s sleeve?

    • You ask a really tough question.

      First of all, it is always wise to get legal advice in your divorce, especially if your spouse has a lawyer. You may not need to hire a lawyer to represent you throughout your whole case, but you definitely should at least consult with a lawyer about your legal rights and responsibilities in divorce.

      As for whether you should be worried because your spouse’s lawyer is going to court for him, while you will be going alone, I can’t say. I’d have to know a whole lot more about the facts and circumstances of your case. I also would have to know the law of your state. (I am only licensed to practice law in Illinois.)

      The bottom line is, I can’t tell you what to do. But it never hurts to talk to a lawyer.

  • My husband wants a divorce and after waiting and waiting for him to file I filed. He is 18 years older than myself and he has been diagnosed psychotic and delusional and I was afraid for my safety and now he is in a independent living facility. hIS LAWYER SEEMS TO BE DRAGGING HIS FEET. aNY ADVISE?

    • The only thing I can tell you is to get your own lawyer and keep pushing for the divorce.

      These things always take longer than anyone expects. What’s more, lawyers know how to drag cases out. Maybe that’s what his lawyer is doing. I don’t know. But I would consult with a lawyer and find out.

      Also, I know this isn’t what you want to hear, but you need to be a little patient, too. If your husband has such serious mental health issues, that can make getting through the court system take longer.

      Best.
      Karen

  • My ex and I will be divorcing on Thursday, we both have no lawyers, no kids, not debt together. How long will the whole thing take? Are there certain questions I should look out for even though we have nothing to ties us?

    • I wish I could help you, but every state and every court system has different rules, so this is something I can’t give you any specific advice about. If you know an attorney in your area who could spend a few minutes with you and let you know what to expect, that would be the best.

  • If you are willing to help out, I have some questions to ask and see if I’m getting screwed or if the process is really this bad. Thank you.

    • The thing about blog comments is that they are all public. So posting your life history here is not a good idea. There’s also only so much I can do in a divorce blog comment.

      If you’d like to work with me one on one as a coach, that would probably be a better choice. Here’s a link to my divorce coach page. To hire me as a coach, contact me through the link on the bottom of my divorce coach page or click here.

      Karen

  • Karen I’m 20 years old I have one son from the marriage.my spouse and I have been separated since we got married in 2016,I need a lawyer and I need out????I don’t want another year to go buy but I don’t have a job and I live with my mom to help her run the place

    • I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but with a child involved: you need a lawyer! At the very least, you need some good legal advice.

      You can try contacting the Legal Aid office in your area and see if you qualify for some free legal help. Check out the law schools in your area too. Sometimes they have legal clinics which take clients pro bono (ie for free).

      It doesen’t sound like you have a lot of financial issues together with your spouse. But you’re definitely going to have to work out the issues surrounding your son and his future when you divorce. It’s important to get those issues resolved properly. Otherwise you can create huge problems for yourself and your son in the future. That’s why you need legal help.

      Best,

      Karen

    • I’m sorry I couldn’t respond in time for you. I just saw this. I do my best to respond to comments as quickly as I can, but I’m only one person. Sometimes it takes longer to reply than I would like.

      Hope everything went well.

      Karen

  • Hi I’m in need of help asap due to a real bad divorce going on right now .i need advice .i cant afford a lawyer he can but not me .his keeping the house and everything else even both vehicles .so I had to buy one cause I have health issues and every 2 months have to get tumors removed so I cant walk to the base it’s far will he be able to take it away

    • I’m sorry to hear about what you’re going through. Unfortunately, I can’t give legal advice online or outside of the state of Illinois. It sounds like legal advice is what you need. If you haven’t done so already, you might want to see if you can get free legal advice from your local Legal Aid office.

  • Hi, My name is Nancy Niemes. My husband and I got married in Austin, Texas on 12/18/15. We are divorcing under the Colorado law. We got separated on 7/17/18. He filed for divorce on 7/24/18. He urged me to leave our marital home on 7/15/18 to prevent me from getting alimony from him. Under the Colorado law, I should not be receiving alimony because our marriage lasted less than 3 years. As of today, we are legally married. We owned a house together, but my husband decided to sell it. We split up the equity of the house 50-50. I live in Florida with one of my children. He has become my financial supporter. I am 54 years old and I feel in disadvantage because of my age. I can’t find a job in Florida. I am an educated individual with a Bachelor’s degree. We have a trial date 5/17/19. I would like the judge to make decision for me based on my situation. I have no income, and I need to survive. My husband has an attorney. I just hired a new attorney because my former attorney failed me in many ways. He used to call me a bitter wife. Not only that, but he made remarks that my husband replaced me for a young woman. I considered him very unprofessional. I had to terminate my client-relation with him. My new attorney seems to be pretty sharp and very professional. Karen, please advise! Should I go for trial?? My husband still believes that if we go to trial, I won’t get any money for alimony. He makes $400K yearly. Thank you!!

    • I wish I could answer your question, but there are so many factors involved in a decision to go to trial that it’s just not one I can answer for you responsibly. To get a proper answer to that, you’ll have to ask a divorce lawyer in your area who knows all of the facts and circumstances in your case, as well as the law in the state where your divorce is pending.

      Sorry I can’t be more help.

      Karen

  • Hello! I am in the final stages of a 4 1/2 year divorce, including nearly 1 1/2 years in broken down collaborative divorce process. I was the monied spouse on paper as my soon to be ex of 25 years was a self employed farmer with many assets but I had the W2s reflecting cash flow in. During the divorce, his lawyer has claimed gifting for numerous assets over the course of the marriage. Reality is that I supported the family (3 young adult children) and household while he channeled any of his farm income back into the farm.

    Fast forward to last August when we signed a property settlement agreement; I will add that I was pressured by both attorneys and the court officer to sign on that day despite my desire to review the document over the weekend as they said if I didn’t sign on that day it would be scheduled for court trial. We have no marital debt. In the agreement, he would keep his various LLCs and business assets as well as the smaller of the two homes we own outright. I would keep the marital/family home, pay no alimony, and keep all of my retirement funds, although given that I was convinced by him during the duration of the marriage that supporting the business/farm assets were my best retirement savings, I did little to contribute to my employer’s funds until he walked out late in 2014.

    My question is that the agreement stated I will keep one house and he will keep the other. It further states I as the wife will be conveyed approximately 9 acres from the husband’s land holdings associated with his various LLCs in order to change the property lines for the marital home as per a map included in the agreement. The value attached to this conveyance of land was priced per acre as assigned by the appraisal completed during the divorce based on an estimation of 9 acres. As I was pressured to sign on that day, there was no time to complete a survey to ascertain the actual land gained by me with the property line changes. The survey has since confirmed only 3.88 acres will be conveyed to me so I have resisted further forward movement to complete the divorce as I believe the amount to be pain by me to him should be adjusted to reflect the conveyance of 3.88 acres versus the 9 acres that the purchase price was based on. I proposed to my lawyer that an addendum be added; he and his lawyer state that I am paying for the boundary line changes even if it did not equate to the proposed 9 acres.

    The judge is frustrated with this case and has demanded we complete the filing process by 4/24 or we are to all report for an appearance. My lawyer is telling me to accept it and pay the full amount even though I am not getting the proposed 9 acres. As I am the monied spouse on paper/taxes, he keeps threatening me that I am opening myself to exposure but I just don’t think it is fair given what the settlement agreement actually states so I think an amendment is justified before forging ahead with submission for divorce decree. Of note, I should also mention that there was nearly a $400,000 difference in net worth between us with HIM having the greater net worth. As an aside, none of his assets were obtained prior to the marriage but due to the claims of gifting, he has protected himself.

    As my attorney and I had a tense exchange and now he hasn’t answered my email from a week ago, I am worried as to what this appearance on 4/24 will entail. I assume it won’t be trial but a conference to push us to proceed. Can you provide any insight? Can addendums be made for property settlements prior to proceeding.

    Thanks for your insight — Frustrated and dismayed in NYS

    • I’m sorry I didn’t get to this before your hearing. I’m just one person and, as you can see, I have A LOT of comments to answer, plus a family and a full-time job. So sometimes it takes me a while to get to everything.

      The truth is that I can’t give you legal advice online anyway. It sounds like what you need is someone to review your entire case and give you an opinion about your options. To do that, you need a good divorce lawyer in your area.

      As for going to trial, you have the right to do that if you choose. Again, to know whether that’s your best choice under the circumstances, you’ll need to talk to a lawyer in your area.

      Sorry I can’t be more help.

      Karen

  • hi, I find your blog extremely helpful, I am towards the end of a divorce, my stbx is totally fighting it out at home. she is not paying the court ordered bills (allocation of funds motion) she spends all her money being a Disney mom so the kids think she is awesome and I end up paying for the house, car, insurance etc. my lawyer is going thru a medical situation with his grandson, extremely stressed out and dropping the ball. he won’t file a motion for a hearing to get my stbx to pay reimbursement, or hold her in contempt. she has sold marital property 3 times without my consent. all of the things I have read or seen state very clearly do what the judge says, don’t be disrespectful and don’t try to clean out the posessions etc or the judge will punish you for it. i am doing everything that the judge said to do, yet my wife has painted me to the gal that i am a jerk and she is suggesting to the judge that my stbx gets custody and i just get visitation and will have to pay her child support. i have heard lots of things about couples getting joint custody the kids live with each parent 50% of the time and neither pays the other one. note: we both make the same amount of money. can you give me some advice? thankyou so much!

    • I can’t give you legal advice about your case online. But what I can tell you is that you would be wise to get a second opinion from a good divorce lawyer in your area.

      It’s unfortunate that your lawyer is going through a medical situation with his grandson. But that’s no reason why you have to settle for legal service that may not be the best.

      Now, in fairness to your lawyer, there may be reasons why he doesn’t want to go to court and file a ton of motions. But, you can’t know that until you get a second opinion and see what another divorce lawyer says.

      Hope this helps.

      Karen

      PS Don’t put this off! It never hurts to get a second opinion.

  • Hi Karen,
    We have been married for about 13 months, out of which, due to some personal issues not related to the marriage, I had been suicidal for 5-6 months. My wife had enough when I tried to kill myself 2 nights in a row, and filed for divorce (Warren county, Ohio). I have been getting professional help since then, and want to reconcile with my wife. When the papers show up, can I contest the divorce and say “I agree I made mistakes, and I want to revive this relationship”? Are these considered fair grounds in reply to a no-fault divorce? (I am also worried that she may have filed an at-fault divorce stating my mental health).

  • I filed for divorce April 2018. My husband has an attorney, I don’t. Prior to filing he had a simple assault that resulted in DCPS coming out and opening a case twice. The situation because very uncomfortable and I started staying away until he changed the locks preventing me from entering the home. We go to trial next month and I believe he and his attorney are going to try and argue abandonment. I have been disabled since 2011 and get disability. Any advice will help.

    • The best advice I can give you is to get a lawyer. Going to trial without a lawyer under the circumstances you described can be the biggest mistake you ever made. I know that might not be what you want to hear. I’m usually not a big fan of “lawyering up.” But you need legal advice.

  • hi Karen,
    I have filed and submitted everything that needed for my divorce, which is an uncontested divorce case. However, in my Judgment and Decree of Dissolution of Marriage, they’re asking who will appear at the court and it’ll be just me (petitioner) appear at the court. Me and her don’t have any children. I was wondering is it ok if I’m the only person will appear at the court? Thanks in advance

    • I wish I could answer, but you’re asking a legal question I can’t answer online.

      The answer depends on the laws in your state. Check with a good divorce lawyer in your area.

      Best,

      Karen

  • Hello Karen,
    I live in San Antonio, Texas. Im a Retired/Disabled 25 year US Air Force Veteran. My Spouse has Filed A Petition For Divorce here in Bexar County. Initially, we had both agreed to go with an Uncontested Divorce. But, My Spouse just decided ( with her daughter and sister’s input) that she wants me to pay her more Spousal Support and, she wants me to pay for her Attorney’s fees. We have been married just shy of 9 years. My Spouse informed me that her daughter told her snot to worry, because she would pay all of her attorney’s fees. Which she already has paid her mother’s attorney’s Retainer Fee. in the State of Texas, the marriage has to have lasted a minimum of 10 years in order for an individual can be legally entitled to be awarded Spousal Support. There are exceptions to this:
    in short, 1. the Respondent must have been accused/charged with Domestic Abuse . 2. The Petitioner has been categorized/identified as being “Disabled” 3. The Petitioner is caring for a Disabled Child. NOTE: None of these pertain to My Spouse ( Petitioner). She says/thinks she is entitled to Spousal Support because she has had back surgery a few years ago and, had shoulder surgery (right) earlier this year. She has since recovered from both surgeries. She applied for Social Security Disability Benefits but, the convening SSD Board denied her request at her hearing. Her only source of income is her monthly Social Security Benefit check. She is scheduled to receive approx. 60 to 75 Thousand Dollars with the settlement of her Family Estate. The only Community Property we have together is: Four vehicles ( 2 are all paid for and 2 still have a Finance Balance due), and a 55 inch Flat Screen TV. I had offered her two of the vehicles ( one of which was still owed on) . I offered to continue being responsible to pay the balance off for that vehicle. I offered her all the Bedroom and Living room furniture and the Flat Screen TV. I would also continue to pay for her new $1000.00 Iphone. AND, I offered to give her$100.00 per month. She has since declined my offer because, she is asking for $500.00 per month for Spousal Support for 9 years ( which is the length of the marriage) . She demands to be reimbursed for the $5,000 she ( willingly and under her own decision) pay to have our home floor tiled. I wanted to just stain the concrete, because it would be cheaper to do. But, she insisted she wanted tile because, her daughter’s house had tile flooring. The house is “Separate Property” because, I purchased it before we were married. This is the second marriage for both of us. Karen, Im trying to see if I can get some Legal Counsel/Representation via Pro Bono because, I honestly cant afford to hire/pay an attorney. My spouse knows this and yet, she and her attorney are demanding I pay her attorney’s fees. Karen, I will sincerely appreciate any and all advice you can give/share with me. I truly thank you kindly.

    Sincerely,
    Ernesto L. Cuevas

    • Ernesto,

      I wish I could give you legal advice, but I can’t. I’m only licensed to practice law in Illinois.

      What I can suggest is that you make a list of all of your questions and pay an attorney for a consultation just to get your questions answered. That may give you valuable information that is more affordable than hiring an attorney to represent you throughout the case.

      I can also tell you that if your wife has an attorney and you don’t, and she’s fighting you (which she is) it may be cheaper for you to pay an attorney than to end up paying her everything that she wants. Attorneys understand the court system. You don’t. They know the law. You don’t. They also know the judge. You don’t. Going it alone in your circumstances could be more expensive than you ever dreamed.

      Again, though, even if you’re not going to hire an attorney for full-on representation, at least pay to talk to one.

      I wish you the best.

      Karen

  • Hello Karen
    I live in Australia .1 year passed away from my marriage but my husband is an affair in some other girl. I want a divorce but how is the process of legal format and how can I find a good divorce lawyer in Perth WA. please share with me.
    Thank you

  • I am in the process of a divorce, have a trial schedule for 8/20/20. I will be talking with my attorney on 7/22/20. Any helpful questions to ask my attorney. I have been married for 31 years, my spouse decided he want happiness and filed for divorce. He is now not agreeing to pay alimony. We had mediation where he has been paying temporary alimony.

    • The tips in this article should provide you with an excellent framework to start preparing for your divorce trial. Other than that, a lot depends on the specific facts of your case. I couldn’t begin to give you any more specific questions without knowing a whole lot more about the details of your case. (And you DEFINITELY don’t want to put those details out here on the internet!)

      The only other general questions you might ask your attorney is how long s/he anticipates that your trial will go, and how much s/he estimates the attorney’s fees will be. Ultimately, you’re going to have to make a cost/benefit decision about whether to settle or go all the way through trial. Knowing the cost of trial will help you make that decision.

      Good luck!

      Karen

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