You and your partner have reached an acceptable Collaborative divorce agreement and you both have signed the Agreement. So, what happens now?
Depending on when you and your partner separated you may have to wait until you have been separated for one (1) year before filing for divorce with the Court. If you have already been separated for one (1) year, then you can file for a divorce immediately. During a team meeting the participants may decide who will file for divorce, this decision will be incorporated into the Marital Settlement Agreement.
Unlike litigation, the attorney that represented you throughout the Collaborative process can represent you in your Uncontested Hearing.
If you are the filing participant, your attorney will draft a Complaint for Absolute Divorce and will state that the matter is uncontested. A copy of your Marital Settlement Agreement will be attached to your Complaint and you will be asking the Court to incorporate the Agreement into the Judgment of Absolute Divorce. You will need to sign the Complaint for Absolute Divorce before your attorney files it with the Court. After filing the Complaint, your attorney will have to serve the Complaint on your partner. In most cases, your attorney will serve your partner by sending the Complaint to his/her attorney.
After the other attorney has been served with the Complaint, they have thirty (30) days to file an Answer to the Complaint. If you are the non-filing participant, your Answer will be simple, as you will be admitting to all the allegations listed in the Complaint for Absolute Divorce. You will need to sign your Answers before your attorney files your Answer in the Court.
After the Complaint, has been filed in the Court, the Court will set this matter in for a scheduling conference. If at the time the Answer is filed before the scheduling conference, you will be able to proceed with an uncontested hearing. At the uncontested hearing, you will need a corroborating witness who preferably knows both you and your partner. At the hearing, your attorney will ask both you and your witness questions regarding your marriage, separation, whether the separation agreement is fair to both participants, and whether there is any hope of reconciliation. If the hearing is before a Master, the Master’s report and recommendation will be submitted to a Circuit Court Judge for executed; if the hearing is before a Judge, the Judge can sign the Judgment immediately.
Please note that you will not be divorced until a Judge has signed your Judgment of Absolute Divorce and it has been entered in the court files.