Court Procedures

So what happens in a Divorce?

All dissolution of marriage cases follow the same general format. The first step is the
filing of the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, which is served upon the spouse.
The spouse has thirty (30) days from the date of service to file with the Court his or
her “Answer”, which is the admission or denial of each allegation presented in the
Petition. He or she may also file a Counter-Petition for Dissolution of Marriage along
with the “Answer”. The Petition and Answer are often referred to as the initial pleadings.
Once the initial pleadings have been filed, the case moves into the “discovery” phase.

Discovery describes the process by which lawyers investigate the facts underlying their
case and obtain information and records from the opposing party. Interrogatories are
written questions which are served on a party requiring that party to answer in writing
and under oath each question asked. Some Courts require that the party serving the
Interrogatories also provide answers to each questions asked of the other party at the time
of serving that party.

Discovery may also involve Requests for Production of Documents which simply are
requests for specific records, reports, photographs, recordings or other information which
are in the possession of the opposing party. Some Courts require the party serving the
Requests to also provide copies of documents in his or her possession to the other party.
Records may also be obtained through a Subpoena which is served on the custodian of
records. Those records must then be provided to the opposing party and filed with the
Court.

Either party may submit to the other Requests for Admissions which asked the other
party to either admit or deny certain factual allegations relevant to the case. The other
party must then provide such response under oath within a certain time period.

In a deposition the attorney questions a witness, or party, in person and those questions
must be answered under oath. A court reporter is present to memorialize all questions,
statements and answers provided by the persons present in the room. The parties and
their respective attorneys may be present at any deposition, and both attorneys may ask
the deponent questions. After the deposition is completed, the court reporter will produce
a transcript of the proceedings which may be used at trial.

A case may involve one or all of the above discovery techniques. Each method of
discovery has a cost associated with it, such as for service of subpoena or attendance of
a court reporter. We will strive to utilize only those methods necessary to develop your
case and to keep your cost and expenses to a minimum. A party can assist in this goal
by providing their attorney with all information and records in his or her possession.
The discovery process is designed to provide the attorney with the facts and information
necessary to present their client’s case. In some cases, it may simply not be necessary to
conduct formal discovery in order to prepare a case. In other cases, the client may not
want to incur, and/or the case may not justify the costs and fees associated with formal
discovery. In all cases however, you the client will make the final decision on whether
discovery is conducted, and to what extent the various methods are utilized.

It is often recommended that you should memorialize everything that takes place between
you, your spouse and your children. This is most easily done in the form of a journal,
providing the date, time and a description of the notable event. Statements made by
your spouse should be documented by you. Actions taken by your spouse should be
documented by you. It may be necessary at some point in the future for you to recall
exactly what was said or done many months before. If you have a journal to refer to, this
process is easy and convincing. Do not miss an opportunity to write important things
down as they happen. Your interest will be greatly served by this simple exercise.

You should be aware that you are involved in litigation during the tenure of your case.
In other words, this is a lawsuit and anything you say or do can and will be used against
you. Under Missouri law, it is perfectly legal to record a conversation that you are
personally involved in. However this is only allowed when all parties in the conversation
are located in Missouri at the time of the conversation. Your spouse may record
telephone calls or in person conversation they may have with you. Whatever you say
is admissible in court and will be heard by the Judge who is deciding your case. Quite
simply, do not make statements to your spouse that you would not say directly to the
Judge. It should be noted that it is illegal to record a conversation between others that
you are not personally involved in, no matter what the location or subject matter. In other
words, you can not record a conversation between your spouse and your children. Should
you decide to use a recording device in your case, please consult with an attorney first to
avoid any problems.