What Is The Process Of Filing For A Divorce In Maine?
Divorce cases follow two processes. One process is followed if there are minor children and another if there are no children. A divorce with minor children begins in the family division of the District Court. The family division of the court is administered by family magistrates. Divorces without children do not come before the magistrates, but proceed directly to a judge. Family magistrates are specifically appointed judicial officers who have authority and jurisdiction to render decisions on an interim basis. They do not have legal authority to make any final decision in contested cases. Family magistrates perform their duties under the supervision of the judges.
Divorces with and without minor children begin by filing a complaint for divorce. Both cases require service of the documents on the opposing party. There are various ways to serve. The most common method is to have the Sherriff personally deliver a copy of the complaint. Once this is complete the documents are filed with the District Court along with payment of a filing fee. Next, the clerk will assign a docket number which is used to identify the case.
If there are minor children, the matter gets scheduled for a case management conference as soon as possible. At this conference, the family magistrate will speak with the parties and identify the issues that need to be resolved. A Case Management Order is issued following the conference and the parties are sent to mediation. In some cases, the magistrate may schedule a time for an interim hearing to address issues involving custody, child support and other matters while the case proceeds through the process.
The court requires that both parties pay an $80.00 mediation fee. At mediation, the parties are afforded the opportunity discuss the issues and work at reaching agreement. If the parties have disagreement regarding the disposition of the assets and/or the parenting plan following the divorce, it may require a second mediation session. Both parties must be in agreement before a term is incorporated into the final court order. Mediation affords the parties the best opportunity to establish the terms of the divorce and control the result.
Following the mediation, the parties appear before the magistrate for a status conference. If the parties agreed to all issues in the divorce, a final uncontested hearing can occur at this conference and the case is complete. If there is no agreement, the case is assigned to a trial judge and scheduled for a final contested hearing.
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