The final divorce hearing is the last stepping stone of the long emotional and legal turmoil of getting divorced.
In this blog, we have answered everything you need to know in this blog before stepping into the courtroom for the final hearing. We have done extensive research and compiled advice from experienced attorneys on what to expect at a final divorce hearing.
On a broader note, in a final divorce hearing, the settlement is done to provide: alimony details, child custody, child support, and the joint assets and liabilities proper and just distribution.
This blog will provide you a detailed insight into the divorce final hearing process and all other related information, which will enable you to understand the divorce hearing procedure better.
What Happens at a Final Divorce Hearing?
The final divorce hearing is the last stepping stone and the end of the divorce hearing procedure. At this stage, the judge passes a final decree of dissolution of marriage after considering all arguments and submissions made by both the parties/spouse.
In case you have children, the final hearing determines who gets the custodial responsibility of the children. The amount of alimony, the division of assets and debts, the child support amount, the visits to the children are all determined on the last day of the divorce trial.
After the judge makes a decision and passes a decree, the latter has to be signed by both the contesting parties to put the dissolution of marriage in effect. We advise reading the decree thoroughly before signing it.
If you want to incorporate changes in the decree, you can request it from the presiding judge during the final hearing. Once the decree is signed, it takes a tedious process to get the decree altered.
Who Attends the Final Hearing?
If you wonder who can be present inside the courtroom on the day of the final hearing, then here is the answer.
The following members generally attend the final hearing:
- The parties to the divorce, i.e., the spouses
- Respective attorneys of each spouse
- The presiding judge
- The office clerk
- Any other authorized person
Thus, there is no need to be nervous or shy in attending the hearing process.
What to Do Before Attending the Final Hearing?
The experts advise that before attending the final hearing, you must always speak to your attorney. The final submissions to be made in front of the judge must be revised one more time.
Going to court for a divorce is stressful for most couples because they are uncertain of the outcome. Being prepared for the divorce trial always helps your case become more robust and better.
Also, the attorney can give you a heads up about what to expect in the courtroom and how to face any anomaly, which may delay the final hearing process.
It is also advisable to be well versed with the courtroom protocols before going to court for divorce to avoid any unintentional contempt of court.
Always enquire from your attorney what are the dos and don’ts in a courtroom, such as:
- What dress code to follow?
- What mannerism to adopt
- The kinds of salutation to be used while addressing the judge, etc.
How Long Does It Take to Reach the Final Hearing?
The divorce final hearing process is complex and lengthy if the spouses do not agree to the terms and conditions set forth by each other. It is then called a contested divorce. A contested divorce is a type of divorce in which the parties stand as contestants and compete to get the best out of the proceedings.
The purpose is to derive the most benefit and least liabilities. In case it is a mutually agreed upon or uncontested divorce, the duration of the final hearing is comparatively shorter, and sometimes no final hearing is required at all.
It is the type of divorce in which the parties are aligned on the rights and liabilities arising from the divorce proceedings and do not contest against each other.
On the final hearing, the judge only takes up the issues on which both parties are disagreeing. The parties are not required to reiterate or discuss any such item they have mutually agreed upon.
Without any children or accumulated assets, short-lived marriages slide through the process much faster. That is because there is no need to split assets between the spouses.
If you have children and have accumulated assets during your marriage, it might not upset you if the divorce seems to turn into a long, exhausting, and frustrating process. In such a divorce hearing procedure, patience is the key to success.
Depending on the degree of disagreement between you and your spouse, the final hearing may take anywhere between a day, a week, or even a month.
What to Check in the Final Decree Issued After the Final Hearing Is Over?
As the name explains, the final decree is the order issued by the judge after considering the testimonies of both parties.
Even though the decree is passed after conducting enough due diligence on the part of the judge, it is still possible for the decree to not be completely in your favor.
It is always advisable to give the decree a thorough read, especially on the following matters:
Alimony is the amount of money required to pay a spouse for life support and maintenance. However, it is the sole discretion of the spouse, to or not to, to demand alimony after a divorce.
The amount of alimony is finalized by the judge in the final decree after considering several factors, such as the financial conditions of both the spouses, the lifestyle standards of the couple, and the ability to maintain the same after divorce all by one’s self, subsisting health conditions of the spouses, age of the spouses, etc.
Since the amount of alimony is determined in the final decree, it is advisable to do a cross-check on the amount mentioned in the decree.
– Child Custody
The final hearing determines who gets the custody of the children to the marriage. The final decree also sets forth the child support amount. The child support amount is the amount to be paid by either spouse to the other (who gets the custody of the children) for supporting the child’s expenses.
The child support amount is different from alimony. While alimony is the amount for the spouse, the child support amount is strictly for the maintenance of the children. The decree shall have the visitation details of the spouse who doesn’t get custody of the children.
It will say the conditions and frequency in which the spouse, who doesn’t get custody, pays a visit to the children. Sometimes the place, manner, and duration of such visits may also be specified.
– Division of Debts and Assets
If you have conjoint debts and assets, which you have accumulated during the tenure or marriage, the same shall also be subjected to division and reallocation. Both the parties shall contest to get the fair share of the assets and liabilities.
It is always a good idea to take a look at the division of assets and debts before signing the decree, just so that you are not subjected to unfair debt share and are deprived of the fair share of assets.
What to Do If You Are Not Happy With the Final Divorce Decree?
It might so happen that the presiding judge fails to understand your standpoint, or you feel that the divorce hearing procedure was unfair and you are not happy with the divorce court hearing. There is always a way to get your decree changed through appeal.
After the final decree has been passed, you may file a motion to appeal the order and seek a fresh hearing date. Do keep in mind that the motion has to be filed by the same judge. It might so happen that the judge refuses your motion as he is unwilling to revise his decree.
Nevertheless, you can always move to the State Appellate Court and file a fresh appeal.
You must preserve your final decree of divorce for your records. You can always collect them from the office clerk directly by either requesting in person or requesting in writing.
In maximum cases, the decree is, mailed to you by your attorney. Do keep following up with your attorney for the same.
Here is a quick summary of this article:
- During the final divorce hearing, you will know the specifics of alimony
- You will learn the details of child custody (who gets to keep the children and the details of child support)
- Debt and assets will be divided accordingly
- If the judge does not accept your plea to change the decree, you can pursue an amendment to the State Appellate Court
We have summarized the process and dos and don’ts for a final hearing and answered the questions, “what happens at a final divorce hearing?” for you. If you found this article helpful, do check out other articles on similar topics on our website.
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