My name is Brian L. Jackson. I’m a Tulsa Fathers Rights attorney. Today I want to talk to you about planning your divorce. This is a touchy subject to talk about for some people, but here’s the long and short of it. When you get married, you plan that out carefully and there are a lot of reasons you plan it out.
One of them is that yes, getting married does have legal implications that you want to consider and make sure you cross all your T’s, dot all your I’s. Divorce also has legal implications. It’s expensive and it can have serious financial implications for you. What that means is you don’t just want to dive into a divorce without having planned it out.
One of the things, obviously, you want to do is you want to get a good divorce attorney involved early. You can do a pro se divorce, but it’s not advised in most cases, especially if you are a father. If you’re planning to get divorced, have a place to go, have a home. If you’re not going to get her to leave the marital home, then you need to have a place to go. You want to have it planned out to where you have a budget put aside to cover all phases of your divorce. I’m going to talk to you about that for a second here, as far as what’s actually involved.
When you get divorced it’s not always a simple matter of file a divorce petition and then get a decree entered. That can happen, but in many cases, that’s not how it goes, and especially not if you have children, if you have children, the path and Tulsa County goes like this. You file your divorce petition, you have to pay your court fees. They’re over $200, so that’s something else you need to make sure you can cover. You have to get her served. That’s going to cost money too unless she waives service, you have to get her served. There’s a fee for that. Process servers usually charge somewhere between 50 and $100, and sometimes more depending on the nature of service.
In Tulsa County, by local rule, you have to have a parenting plan conference. That’s a court appearance. If you have an attorney with you, your attorney may want to be there as well. After the parenting plan conference, the next thing that comes up is temporary orders. Temporary orders can be agreed upon, but it may be a contested hearing depending on the circumstances. Again, you need to have a lawyer handy for that. After temporary orders, then it depends. Our usual approach is to do discovery in there. We usually try and do it before temporary orders, but we going to definitely want to do it before you get to file a disposition on divorce.
What discovery is, is we’re going to ask for the production of documents and you’ll be asked for these too. There are certain documents you have to turn over as the initial process of filing after we turned over to the other side. That includes your financial information, records of any assets you have. When I say financials, I mean your paycheck stubs, proof of your income, any information about the location of accounts, things like that. That has to be turned over. If it’s not turned over by the time you get to discovery, it will be because these are all things you have to disclose.
You have to disclose it because when you’re doing a divorce, you’re dividing property, as well as if you have children, you’re going to figure out where the kids live. You’re going to figure out what, if any, child support there’s going to be, but all those things are part of it. When you’re talking about the assets and liabilities, you’re putting it all in the pot and then dividing it up equitably, which is a fancy legal term for the court’s going to try to do what’s fair, or what the court believes is fair and legal. You have to disclose all that information. The ideal situation is you have your side of that organized in advance before you start filing things. The more organized you are, the less you have to pay to have a lawyer organize it for you.
Again, this is where planning ahead makes sense. After you get through discovery, the court can order a mediation where you would go to a… A mediator is basically like a referee and a mediation is a type of settlement conference, essentially. Where you’ll sit down with your ex-wife and the mediator, and you’re going to talk about possible options for settlement. Now, if you don’t want to agree to things at the mediation, you don’t have to. The mediator can’t make you do anything binding upon yourself, but if you do reach an arrangement, whatever the agreement is, that mediation is memorialized and then it becomes binding. That will go into forming your decree.
If you can’t reach an agreement, well, then usually the next step is pretrial. Your attorney will want to identify witnesses and exhibits. That is people that will testify to support whatever facts you have to show to the court that support why you should get the relief you’re asking for, including how you want the property divided up and how you want the debts divided up. Also, they’re going to ask you about what witnesses indicate… Obviously, if there’s a custody issue, they’re going to testify about who’s better suited to be the custodian, or why you should do joint custody, or whatever relief you’re asking for there. You’re going to need to bring in evidence as well to your income, and the income of your ex-spouse, and where child support should land. All of these are things that if you go to trial, you have to be able to prove up.
The point of the pretrial conference is basically for the attorneys to sit down and try to put together a pre-trial conference order that will organize the trial. It saves time, it saves aggravation for everyone. Then the last step is going to be trial. With the trial, essentially, you’re going to have to put on testimony, you’re going to put exhibits before a judge, who’s going to decide what to do with that marital estate, and if there are children involved, what happens to the children?
That’s what happens. It can be a long and drawn-out process, depending on just how contested things get. Again, it’s something to plan for. Keep in mind, if both of you and she are working, then you’re dealing with a situation, once you separate, you guys are now going to each be under your own power, your own earning capability. You have less money than you had as a couple. It’s not something you should do spur of the moment if you can help it.
Guys, let’s be honest, if your marital relationships going south, I would say 99% of the time, you’re probably going to see that one coming. You’re going to know things you’re getting worse, and you’re going to know it’s time to start making plans. I’m not suggesting to you that you start hiding assets from your spouse because you can’t do that. What I am saying is to have some money put aside for yourself to go take care of this, so that you can get a good attorney involved early on and not end up with a problem.
Talk to that attorney about any issues you might have. That should include, by the way, if there are children involved, what kind of disposition you want to have for custody, and visitation, and child support. If you’re planning on either leaving or trying to boot her, how you want to handle that with the children and who should have them at temporary orders because whoever starts out with the kids is going to be having an inherent advantage when you get down to litigation later on and where the children ended up living.
Keep that in mind. If you want custody, it’s something you should try to assert early on because, otherwise, you’re fighting an uphill battle. My name is Brian L. Jackson. We’ve been talking about planning your divorce, and I’ve been telling you a little bit about the divorce process. If you’re in a situation where you think it’s time to end things. I mean, I hope you’re not, but if you are and you need help, please contact me right away. Don’t wait. Definitely don’t wait for her to file first. I’ll help you out. It’s a difficult time, I get it. It does get easier. It’s a lot easier if you have a good advocate on your side. Again, my name’s Brian L. Jackson. I’m a Tulsa Fathers Rights attorney. If you find yourself in this difficult situation, please call me. I’d love to work with you. Thanks.