Each month for one year, the Andersen Law PC blog will spell out the 12 steps of divorce.
In doing so, we will also track two divorcing couples making their way through the process.
Spoiler alert: Art and Angela Aingel take the high road. While divorce is not usually a fun process (I have yet to hear someone tell the judge at final orders, “Thank you, sir, may I have another?”), the Aingels have a relatively straightforward experience before moving forward with their separate lives. Meanwhile, Draco and Desdemona DeVille make choices that, while initially tempting, detour them down a bad road laden with unnecessary drama, painful court appearances and skyrocketing costs.
The following is a roadmap of the 12 steps of a divorce proceeding. And if you want to divorce in less than a year, feel free to call me with questions specific to your situation. I am happy to walk you through your own next steps and to answer questions in your complimentary initial phone or videoconference consult.
Here are how we will cover the 12 steps of divorce:
February: responding to the petition
August: temporary orders
October: parenting plans and separation agreements
November: witnesses, pretrial deadlines and permanent orders
December: QDROs and other post decree issues
So let’s continue with August.
August: ‘It’s Only Temporary’: THE TEMPORARY ORDERS HEARING
Desdemona DeVille and Angela Aingel sat on the bench by the country club where they had just finished a less-than-heated round of tennis.
The whole match, Desdemona had kept stopping play and motioning Angela to the net so she could either boast about the Motion to Compel she had served on her soon-to-be-ex-husband Draco, complain about the exact same motion, which Draco had served, on her or both.
“I cannot wait to drag that man into court again,” Desdemona announced angrily after the match. “Over my dead body will Draco get this country club membership!” Desdemona was shouting loud enough to echo across the nearby courts to hear. She saw a member of a nearby foursome rushing off to the clubhouse and hoped it was not to complain about Desdemona’s antics. Angela remembered that Desdemona had been politely removed from the summer league due to her frequent outbursts after putting lemon vodka in her water bottle.
As usual, Desdemona was a lot more worried about her own emotions than any effect the volume of her rant might have on those nearby. She waved her racquet over her head for emphasis, complaining, “Draco says he needs the club membership for his business developments. Hmmph! What about my business and my personal development? This is where I plan to meet my next husband!”
“What about Danny?” Angela asked, referring to the younger man Desdemona had been dating ever since she and Draco were on the outs.
“That boy toy? He’s just something to do,” Desdemona rolled her eyes. “I will never marry again without reviewing three months of his pay stubs and bonuses, taking a solo meeting with his financial advisor and at least three credit reports!”
Angela wondered if Danny knew about this. But then again maybe Danny was OK with not marrying a woman old enough to be his mother. She remembered Danny complaining, “She never lets me take the driver’s seat, so to speak, or drive the car for that matter.” She remembered that Danny had also refused to wear the “Cougar Snack” T-shirt Desdemona had bought him.
Noticing one of the tennis pros approaching, Angela smiled brightly and waved at him.
“What are you doing?” Desdemona grimaced. She quickly stuffed both Angela’s and her things into her own tennis bag, avoiding eye contact with the pro. “Let’s go!” Desdemona whispered, grabbing Angela tightly by the arm.
“Why?” Angela asked. “Toby and you always seemed to be such good friends.”
“Oh, trust me, we were more than friends,” Desdemona said tightening her grip on Angela’s arm. “Listen, hon, we need to get out of here,” Desdemona added, still whispering.
“Why?” Angela asked. “Hi Toby!” she smiled and waved again. Toby had always been so nice to her during her twice weekly private tennis lessons in the past. Of course, Art and she agreed to drop their club membership right away when they divided to divorce. They knew they could not afford it. It was so nice to be back at the club as Desdemona’s guest, and to see all her old friends again. Though, come to think of it, Desdemona had insisted on coming in a side entrance, rushing to an open court and refusing to talk to anyone.
“Stop talking to Toby — right now!” Desdemona demanded. “And I will tell you why, since you are being so thick. Let’s just say I’m a little behind on my dues,” Desdemona muttered as she tugged Angela to her feet. “OK? Get it? And let’s go … now.”
Angela noticed that Toby did not wear his usual smile. He was striding toward them with a furrowed brow. And there was Calvin, the club manager, a few steps behind Toby, fast-walking their way, clipboard in hand and a stern frown on his face.
“RUN!” Desdemona shouted, leaping over the bench and sprinting toward tennis court gate.
Not knowing what to do, Angela ran to catch up with Desdemona, though making sure to look back, smile and shrug apologetically at the two men marching toward them. “Exactly how far behind are you on your dues, Des?” she panted as the two of them raced across the grass toward the club parking lot, items spilling from Desdemona’s bag.
Angela collected the fallen sunglasses, balls and visors quickly and held them to her chest as she ran. “How far behind on your dues?” she tried again between breaths.
“I’m not exactly a member anymore,” Desdemona muttered as the two of them hopped into Desdemona’s newly leased Lexus. Desdemona squealed out of the parking lot swerving around the homeowners’ association security vehicle, which apparently had been called to the scene in order to catch the pair of trespassers.
“Later, suckers!” Desdemona shouted out the window, cutting through the exit gate just as it slowly began to close in order to block their exit. Desdemona laughed. She loved breaking the rules, always had, even when Angela and she had been sorority sisters at CU.
“Well, hopefully, all my troubles will be behind me after we go to court tomorrow.” Desdemona smiled. “I am going to get everything I want at Temporary Orders.”
“Temporary Orders, is that something I am going to have to do too?” Angela wondered aloud.
“Well, you definitely should,” Desdemona told her. “Never miss a chance to go to court and let your ex have it. That’s my philosophy!” Desdemona smiled.
“I don’t know,” Angela frowned. “Going to court is so expensive!”
“Well, whenever I get the jitters like that, I just think about that lousy son of a gun who made my life a living hell. Don’t you know the eternal answer to that classic question: Why is divorce so expensive?”
Angela shrugged and shook her head.
“Because it’s worth it!” Desdemona put the pedal to the metal, burning rubber as they sped down the tree-lined streets of her upscale suburban neighborhood.
Angela decided to ask her attorney about Temporary Orders. It sounded ominous, like something from the military: “I just got my ‘Temporary Orders’ to report to duty on the front.”
Angela’s attorney explained that a Temporary Orders hearing occurred when the parties had issues that could not wait until the final Permanent Orders hearing in their case.
“A hearing!” Angela realized. “You mean like a trial?”
“Essentially,” the lawyer said. “You each have the opportunity to testify from the stand, cross examine each other, call witnesses and offer evidence.”
“Wow, you mean a jury is going to decide my divorce?” Angela asked. “What if someone from the school where I teach is on the jury? One of the parents or even one of my friends from church? It’s so embarrassing.”
“It’s not exactly like that,” the attorney explained.
Angela was really getting nervous about the jury concept “What if one of Art’s friends is on the jury? They may try to vote against me. A lot of them are mad at me – especially his divorced friends who wanted to come over to the house give me advice or comfort me. They really got mad when I said no.”
“No, there is no jury,” the lawyer explained. “It’s a bench trial. That means a judge decides everything. Or maybe a magistrate in the case of Temporary Orders. A magistrate, by the way, sits on the bench and can hear many issues just as the judge does.”
“Whew, because I do not want 12 angry men deciding my divorce,” Angela said as she breathed a sigh of relief.
“Well, you may not want one busy judge either,” her attorney said.
“But Desdemona says we have a right to our day in court,” Angela retorted, thinking twice the minute the words left her mouth. She knew that anything her friend Desdemona recommended should be taken with a pillar of salt.
Besides, her attorney had told her to fire the committee of friends and family giving her well-meaning advice throughout the divorce. Everyone had a strong opinion, a harsh word about her attorney and her ex, and seemed to know a friend, cousin or neighbor who got everything handed to them for free, whose divorce had been better, faster, cheaper, a walk in the park.
Angela’s attorney explained that she was close to having negotiated temporary support for the kids and her, as well as living arrangements, parenting time, and a discovery and mediation schedule that made a temporary orders hearing unnecessary. When the attorney added that avoiding such a hearing could save Angela thousands of dollars, it was music to her ears.
Meanwhile, Desdemona’s hearing was not the fun experience she had hoped. The Joint Trial Management Certificate, Exhibit Books, Subpoenas and other details meant hours of attorney and legal assistant time. That meant a big bill for Desdemona and another bill just as big for Draco and his attorney. The magistrate had scolded both parties for their inability to agree on basic things and put the children first. She had assessed sanctions against both of them for their refusal to turn over basic discovery. She had even ordered the attorneys to go out to lunch together and get some mentoring at the bar association because the attorneys had been bickering just as brutally as Desdemona and Draco.
Desdemona was especially upset that she was not able to offer the four notebooks of evidence and 10 witnesses she had wanted to testify at the one-hour hearing. “All because I was 15 minutes late to the hearing! How was I supposed to know the light rail goes right in front of the courthouse and that there would be a line a mile long at security!”
“Oh, and who was that magistrate to tell ME that my testimony about Draco’s affair and his verbal abuse was ‘irrelevant’ to financial issues. I had to go the THERAPY! That cost money and having to pay money was a financial issue to ME!”
Desdemona also did not like that the judge considered her friends and family testimony about Desdemona’s honesty and good character to be “cumulative.” “My attorney said that’s like ‘piling on’ I guess, but they each know a different good characteristic about me. My mother, for example, knows about my fashion sense and how I set out outfits for the children and even did this for Draco. Whereas my father knows nothing about fashion but he knows how hard it was to get that Saturday morning tee time so that is just not a good time for me to show houses. I simply can’t work Saturdays!”
Angela sometimes wondered why Desdemona and she had ever been friends to begin with. Her friend’s superficiality and indifference to legal realities was astounding. “Desdemona,” she attempted, “my attorney said court is not just a chance to rant against your ex. We live in a ‘no fault’ state, the court does not care which party is the one to cause the divorce, so infidelity as a general rule is not relevant in a hearing – unless he was spending thousands of dollars on travel or gambling or similar marital waste.
“My attorney said hearings are to apply law to the facts and that ‘temporary’ hearings are only about the temporary, emergency and urgent issues that cannot wait until the case is done. Things like parenting time if you do not agree, debts and pressing financial obligations, spousal support/maintenance, child support and things like that.”
“Well, you saw what happened to us at the club. All I wanted to do was play a little tennis with my friend and we ended up running for our lives! If that is not an emergency, I don’t know what is! Oh, and I’m sure that Draco was behind it all along. He probably had one of his spies reporting me to Calvin. They are old golfing buddies you know.”
Angela gave up. Desdemona did not get it and she probably never would.
Meanwhile, Angela and Desdemona’s husbands Art and Draco were golfing at the very same club the women had been chased out of. “I hate this place,” Draco said as he put the pedal to the metal of their cart. “I can’t stand being around these stiff suits and old biddies. My girlfriend Sasha hates it. She is not the uppity type. But I am making darn sure to keep the membership so Des doesn’t get it. Did you hear our estranged wives got thrown out of here by the way?”
Art was stymied. Angela was a school teacher and hardly a rule breaking rebel. Maybe divorce was changing her, he wondered. Then he remembered that the only time Angela ever did get in trouble, Desdemona was sure to be the instigator.
“Anyway, get this,” Draco continued, “as if court wasn’t bad enough, now we have to go to mediation too. Some sort of peacemaking session to see if we can AGREE on everything. Oh no, not me. I am going to the mattresses on everything. I want to make her pay! Listen, if you get dragged into mediation, read my lips: N.O. Just keep saying it. Agree to nothing. Mediate litigating that, brother!”
Art did not exactly know what mediation would be like, but he did know one thing: If Draco was dead set against it, it probably was a good idea.
Questions for September: When it comes to mediation, do you have to haggle?
If you need help getting through all the steps of your own divorce, contact Andersen Law PC today. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 720-922-3880.