Sometimes in divorce, it feels like one spouse is dragging their feet and the divorce is taking too long. Your spouse may be causing delays: rescheduling meetings or court appearances, requesting an extension, or taking a long time to give you information that you need. In some cases, it may be your spouse’s attorney that is slowing down the process, either as a deliberate strategy or just out of incompetence. You may feel helpless in the face of these delays.
How can you speed things up?
There is no silver bullet for these issues. Every locale has its own rules and procedures, so you’ll have to check with your attorney to see if the options below will work for your situation. Be aware that it’s important to document everything. Document every email and phone call, every rescheduled meeting, and every time you follow up on something and do not receive a reply. If you ultimately go before a judge, you can bolster your case by showing that your spouse or their attorney were causing delays.
There are four options that may help you to speed up your divorce:
1) A motion to compel
In broad terms, a motion to compel is when the court sets a date for your spouse to reply to a specific request or to provide documentation that you have asked for. If they missed that date, they can be held in contempt of court. Often the penalty will be a fine, but there are other consequences that can follow. For example, the court may place an evidentiary restriction that limits the evidence that your spouse can provide for their case. The most extreme penalty is jail time. If you’re waiting on a specific request, see if a motion to compel is an option for your situation.
2) Settlement conference in front of a judge
Although it’s often preferable to avoid going to court, there are times when it can be beneficial. A settlement conference will allow you to meet the judge, test out a few arguments with them and get a sense of how the case would go if you end up resolving it in front of the judge. A settlement conference can be good motivation for your spouse to try to look as good as possible, so they will often address any outstanding requests shortly before the settlement conference so they don’t look like they’ve been ignoring you.
3) Subpoena a third party
In some cases, you need information that is held by a third party. As an example, let us say that your spouse has worked for a particularly employer and has a retirement plan at Fidelity. You need information about their retirement plan, but your spouse is taking forever to get that information to you. In this case, your attorney may be able to subpoena Fidelity to get those records. There are some legal technicalities, so check with your lawyer if it will be an option to get information that your spouse is not providing willingly.
4) Default judgment
If your spouse has repeatedly been missing deadlines, you may have the option of asking for a default judgment. This means that if your spouse fails to respond for a certain period of time, the court can issue a judgment of whatever you ask for (within reason). The non-responsive spouse’s side will not be considered. It can take a long time for a default judgment to happen, and there are restrictions in place to protect your spouse, but it’s worth looking into if there hasn’t been movement on your case.
When it comes to divorce, there is no easy solution. Unfortunately, some things in divorce just take time. It can take 3-6 months between court appearances in some places, particularly if the courts are backed up. However, if your spouse or their lawyer is actively slowing down this process, and you have documentation, bring these options up with your attorney. You may be able to force the process to move forward.
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