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Understanding What Divorce & Marriage Judges Do

If you have very few assets or agree completely on how to divide your assets and responsibilities, you may be able to avoid a divorce trial. Otherwise, understanding what divorce and marriage judges do will make the entire process a bit easier.

What Divorce and Marriage Judges Do in a Non-Contested Divorce

If you and your spouse can reach an agreement before trial, your attorneys will write a Separation Agreement, which outlines the details of your settlement. This agreement will be submitted to the court for review by a judge. You and your spouse must attend a hearing for a judge to approve the agreement. What a divorce or marriage judge will do is look at your financial statements as well as the Separation Agreement. If he or she finds the terms fair and reasonable, the terms and agreements will be incorporated into the Judgment for Divorce.

What Family Law Judges Do in a Contested Divorce

If you and your spouse cannot come to an agreement, this is known as a contested divorce.

The divorce process legally starts when you file the Original Petition for Divorce. This is filed in the Clerk's office, and your case is assigned to a judge.

The judge will want to know which issues have been settled and agreed upon, and which issues remain unresolved. One of the attorneys will read both the agreements and the "contested" issues. The judge will ask you and your spouse if you understand the agreement and are willing to stick to its terms. Once you have agreed that you will abide by it, the judge will confirm the agreement as a court order.

If you cannot agree on whether you or your spouse will remain in the marital home, whom will pay the bills, or how you will care for your children during the divorce proceedings, the judge may issue a temporary order to determine this.

During the course of the divorce trial, you and your spouse (through your divorce lawyers) will have the chance to present evidence and testimony to the judge. The judge will listen, take notes and ask questions during this process. He or she will also administer the schedule of the trial, make decisions when lawyers disagree, and bring the court to order should it get out of control.

After hearing all the evidence, the judge will decide how to divide the marital property and liabilities and will award custody. These rulings will be put into a written divorce order.