Divorce is a complicated process, both technically and emotionally. However, it is also necessary in many instances. From amicable separations, complex custody issues, and complicated financial entanglements, each divorce is its own unique legal process. If you believe it is time to end your marriage in Wichita, KS, contact our firm. You should know what the process actually entails, how long it will take, and what you should expect from the experience. Ultimately, divorce is rarely an easy experience, but it can be less challenging with the help of an experienced attorney. Though your situation is unique, there is a standard process for most cases. Countless possible variables might arise during any given divorce case, but every divorce in Wichita, KS will follow a similar framework.
Starting the Divorce Process in Kansas
Divorce officially begins when a married person files a petition for divorce with the court. In most cases, the person filing has already spoken to their spouse about ending the marriage. The submission of their divorce petition is the first in a long series of steps before the two spouses are legally single again.
It does not matter which of the spouses files the divorce petition, nor does being the first to file for divorce. It is a widespread misconception that being the first spouse to file a divorce petition offers a legal advantage as the divorce case unfolds, but this is not true. Kansas does not require a specific reason to file for divorce. Anyone may submit their divorce petition for “irreconcilable differences.”
Once the petition is filed, the other spouse has a chance to respond. They must provide the local court with a formal Answer to their spouse’s divorce petition within the allotted time. If they fail to do so, the court will likely render a summary judgment in favor of the petitioner and grant the divorce. If the respondent does not agree with any element of the petitioner’s proposed divorce terms, then the divorce is “contested.” The two spouses must transform it into an uncontested divorce through mediation or litigation.
Divorce Litigation and Why to Avoid It
Litigation in any civil case can take months or even years before a conclusion is reached. A divorce will proceed through the litigation process similarly to most other civil cases: both sides can present their evidence, provide sworn testimony, and call witnesses if necessary. Depending on the complexity of the case, this process can take months or even years. This will be very expensive to both of the divorcing spouses, ultimately creating more tension, stress, and financial hardship for both of them.
Many divorcing couples avoid litigation not only due to the stress and expense but also the lack of control and privacy. A divorce that unfolds in court becomes public record, meaning everything the spouses say in the courtroom becomes public knowledge. For some, this would be unacceptable. For others, their main issue with the litigation process for divorce is the fact that they have no real control over the final outcome; the judge makes the final decision.
Like many other civil claims, most divorce cases are settled outside of court in private collaborative divorce mediation. Instead of incurring the expense of litigation, a divorcing couple can potentially reach mutually agreeable terms on many aspects of their divorce privately. When a couple litigates their divorce, all proceedings become public record. By choosing mediation instead, the couple can not only keep their settlement negotiations private but also save a significant amount of time, money, and stress while maintaining control over the outcome of their divorce.
Divorce mediation allows divorcing spouses to negotiate property division, alimony, and responsibility for outstanding debt. All these determinations remain fully within their control as opposed to being left in the hands of a judge, and all mediation proceedings are private. However, despite all the advantages of mediation, some things will still require court review. Namely, child care and custody if the divorcing spouses have children; while they may privately negotiate a parenting plan, they may not make any enforceable determinations concerning custody or support. Kansas law requires a judge to ensure that any divorce determination involving children upholds those children’s best interests.
Finalizing the Divorce Process
Whether you litigate or mediate your divorce in Wichita, KS, the finalization process involves a final review of the divorce agreement by a judge. A judge must approve the decree to finalize the divorce. Missouri requires a minimum 30-day waiting period before a divorce is finalized. This window begins on the date the divorce petition is filed. In the event the couple’s mediation or litigation surpasses this 30-day window, the couple is formally divorced when a judge finalizes their decree.
Obtaining a finalized divorce decree can be a major relief to some and a serious blow to others, but the fact is that having your divorce decree may not mean that the issue is completely settled. It is possible to revisit any long-standing elements of your divorce decree, such as a child support agreement, alimony arrangement, or child custody arrangement. Life events can occur unexpectedly. Anything from the loss of a job to the birth of a new child can potentially compel a divorced individual back to family court to seek a post-judgment modification to their current divorce decree.
Filing for a post-judgment modification is relatively straightforward. Your Wichita, KS family law attorney can help you draft the motion for your proposed change, and the court will set a hearing date. If your ex does not object, the motion can pass and influence your current divorce decree.
Find Legal Counsel for Your Divorce in Wichita, KS
Ultimately, the divorce process may look very different for every couple that endures the process, but one constant for any divorce is the value of legal representation. Hiring an attorney will be a tremendous asset to your divorce case, whether you are expecting a simple and straightforward divorce with minimal contestation or an emotionally charged litigation battle. Your Wichita, KS family law attorney can help you determine the best approach to your unique divorce case, identify challenges and opportunities present in your case, and ultimately help you navigate to a satisfactory result.