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Understanding the Phases of a Divorce Trial

Understanding the Phases of a Divorce Trial

While every divorce differs, the divorce trial process in Nebraska does not.  Here’s what you can expect:

Step 1:  Filing the complaint

The person who initiates the divorce by filing the complaint first is referred to as the “Plaintiff,” while the non-filing spouse is referred to as the “Defendant.” The purpose of the complaint is to advise the court that a divorce has been filed and what issues are involved (property division, alimony, children, etc.). Finally, the complaint informs the court what the filing spouse would like to be awarded in the divorce.

Step 2:  Service/Voluntary appearance

Once the complaint has been filed, the non-filing spouse must be notified of the pending divorce action. This is often accomplished by providing the non-filing spouse with a copy of the complaint along with a document called the “voluntary appearance.” The non-filing spouse should sign and submit the voluntary appearance to the court, which serves as notice that he or she knows the divorce has been filed. By submitting a voluntary appearance, the non-filing spouse can avoid being served with a copy of the complaint by the sheriff at work or home.

Step 3:  The answer

Within 30 days of submitting a voluntary appearance or being served by a sheriff, the non-filing spouse must file an “answer” with the court.  This legal document contains the non-filing spouse’s responses to the allegations contained in the complaint. The answering spouse may affirm or deny each claim in the complaint.  He or she may also file a counterclaim if they want to resolve the divorce differently than what the filing spouse has requested in the complaint.

Step 4:  Mediation requirements for parents

Nebraska requires that divorcing parents attempt mediation to resolve child custody and visitation issues.  The agreement reached between the parents in mediation is then turned into a parenting plan.  Both parents must also attend a class called “What About the Children,” either separately or together.  These steps must be taken before a trial date is set.

Step 5:  Discovery

Discovery is the legal process of exchanging information and documents between spouses that are needed to either come to a settlement agreement or prepare for trial. This process often requires spouses to gather a number of financial documents and to answer questions relevant to their divorce.

Step 6:  Settlement/Trial

Nebraska family courts strong encourage divorcing couples to resolve their issues outside the courtroom, either through settlement discussions between spouses and their attorneys or through mediation.  If the parties still cannot agree, a trial date will be assigned.  At trial, both parties will testify before the judge (there are no jury trials in family court).  Evidence will be presented, and witnesses may be called to testify.  Upon completion of the trial, the court will typically issue its ruling in writing at a later date.

Determining whether to settle or advance to trial is not an easy decision nor one to be taken lightly. Your legal team at Koenig|Dunne is here to provide you with guidance and advice regarding this difficult decision and all of the decisions that you will face throughout the divorce process.