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What to Expect Before You Go to Court

While divorce trials are becoming progressively rarer in Rhode Island, litigation is still the only option for reaching a divorce settlement in particularly acrimonious separations. Specific events and factors make each case unique, but certain steps in the process are nonetheless the same.

Let’s review what to expect as you prepare for trial.

Filing the divorce

Your attorney will help you draft papers to be filed with a Rhode Island Family Court, requesting an end to your marriage and asking for any of the following that may apply:

  • Child support
  • Child custody and/or visitation rights
  • Property and financial division, and a hold on use of jointly-owned assets
  • Alimony
  • Fees and costs stemming from divorce proceedings

The paperwork will also list the grounds (reason) for your divorce, unless your filing is for a no-fault divorce. Additionally, you and your spouse will be served with paperwork to which responses will likely be required.

Discovery, documents and depositions

Discovery is when attorneys ask each other to reveal the facts of their case. You may receive questionnaires to fill in, requests for documentation of income and payments, and a myriad of other requests. Some situations may require you submit to deposition, during which you answer questions under oath. Both lawyers will also line up witnesses and conduct investigations into your finances during this time. Temporary requests may be considered by the court regarding child custody, support or other issues.

Pretrial preparations

In some situations, you may be told to attend a pretrial conference, during which attorneys may enter into agreements regarding at least some of the issues to be resolved by your divorce. Certain decisions on admitting evidence or witness testimony may also be considered.

The court may order you to try to work out your differences during a conference. If you have children, the court may order you and your spouse to attend parenting classes. In the meantime, your divorce lawyers will prepare witnesses for court, work with you on your testimony, and talk to the other side about any potential settlement offers.