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D- Finish a Contested Case

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A Contested Case is when one spouse or partner filed and served on the other spouse or partner a petition for divorce with a court summons, more than 30 days have passed since the service of the Petition and Summons, and:

  • the other spouse or partner filed a response, and
  • there is NOT agreement about all of the issues involved in the separation.

SPECIAL NOTE: If you have a contested case, you may well need help – including legal counsel. The following are general guidelines.  The actual rules for contested cases are different in each county, so learn your county's local rules of court on trial procedures. 

  • To find your county's court website, click here. Opens new window
  • For a reminder of ways you can get other kinds of help, click here.

NOTE: You may not need all of these forms. Or you may need more forms. If you're not sure which forms to use, talk to your Family Law Facilitator Opens new window or a lawyer. 

For help in getting low-cost legal aid, click here. Opens new window

For help finding local court forms you may need, go to your county's court website: click here. Opens new window

The following are the steps to take to finish a contested divorce case:

1.  One of the spouses or partners must request a hearing or trial.

NOTE: There is no Judicial Council form for asking for a hearing or trial. However, most county law libraries have books of unofficial forms. To find the address and phone number of your county's law library, click here. Opens new window

Once you have finished this request:

  • Make two photocopies of the request -- one for the court and one for your spouse
    or partner. Then take (or mail) the original and two copies to the court to be filed
    by a court clerk.
  • The court will schedule a Pre-Trial Conference.
  • Serve a copy of this request on the other spouse or partner.

2.  Pre-Trial Statement 
Each spouse or partner must prepare a PRE-TRIAL STATEMENT, which summarizes all of the issues of their separation, and includes a copy of all the documents each spouse or partner intends to give to the court during the trial to prove that his or her position is correct.  

Again, there is no Judicial Council form for a pre-trial statement. This would be an excellent time to get help from an attorney, if you can. If not, your local county law library will have self-help books you may use. 

Once you have finished this statement:

  • Make two copies of the statement and attachments - one for the court and one for your spouse or partner. Then take (or mail) the original and two copies to the court to be filed by a court clerk.
  • You must serve a copy of this statement and all the attachments on your spouse or partner. 

3. Witness List

If you intend to call witnesses (other than  yourself and your spouse or partner) you must prepare a witness list prior to the trial.  This list must include the names of all witnesses you intend to call, as well as a brief description of their expected testimoney.

Once you have finished this list:

  • Make two copies of the list - one for the court and one for your spouse or partner. Then take (or mail) the original and two copies to the court to be filed by a court clerk.
  • You must serve a copy of this list on your spouse or partner. 
  • Make sure your witnesses know how to find the court and what time to be there.  It might be a good idea to give them a copy of the checklist on this website for how to dress and how to behave in court.

4.  Final Disclosure
Normally, you will need to show the court that you and your spouse or partner have exchanged up-to-date financial information with each other. To learn how to do this, click here.

5. Prepare to Testify 


6.  Trial
Each spouse or partner is to prepare a trial brief and evidence. Opens new window

You may want to consult with an attorney about what evidence is allowed, or to assist you in preparing youir evidence in a form that is likely to be persuasive to the court.  Submit originals to the court. Keep a set of copies for yourself and the other side.

7.  Judgment
Either spouse or partner may fill out and file the Judgment (Form FL-180). It is important to note that the FL-180 form may have one or more attachments in addition to the original settlement agreement or Stipulation for Judgment form.

8.  Notice of Entry of Judgment
With the Judgment (Form FL-180), the spouse who or partner who prepares and files the Judgment is also to prepare and file:

 

Whoever fills out the Form FL-180 must make two copies of the completed form, including all the attachments. Then, he or she will mail or take the original and two copies of each form (and the attachments) to the clerk to be filed.  He or she must also give the clerk TWO stamped envelopes (one addressed to each spouse or partner) so that copies of the the final forms can be sent to each of them after they have been signed by the judge.

SPECIAL NOTES:

  • If child support is assigned to the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) for collection, the judgment MUST include the signature of the DCSS attorney before it is submitted to the court.
  • Signatures of all persons acting without an attorney must be notarized

The divorce is final when the judge signs the Judgment (FL-180)

  • A court clerk will mail the Notice of Entry of Judgment to each spouse or partner, with the date that the judgment was filed stamped in the upper right corner.
  • Be sure to keep a copy of this Judgment (Form FL-180) and Notice of Entry of Judgment (Form FL-190) in a safe place. You may need them in the future.
ALERT! When your Judgment is signed there is paperwork to do right away. To lean how to do this, please go to After You Get Your Judgment.

If you have to go to court, please go to Step 7: If You Have a Hearing

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