Does the Plaintiff Have to Show Up in a Divorce?

By Anna Green

State laws regarding divorce often differ significantly. Further, rules on who must attend hearings vary based on the nature of the individual case. In some jurisdictions, the plaintiff, or party who is filing for divorce, does not need to attend the final hearing provided the couple agrees on the terms of the divorce. In other states, the plaintiff must attend but not his or her spouse. In some cases, both spouses must attend the final hearing.

Fault and No Fault Divorce

In a no-fault divorce, neither party has to establish their spouse acted in a way that led to the divorce. In a fault divorce, however, one spouse must prove that the other party committed adultery, abandonment, cruelty or some other action that led to the breakdown of the marriage. At present, all states have some form of no-fault divorce. No-fault divorce can be quicker and simpler than fault divorce since neither party has to present evidence to establish their spouse performed an act or omission that contributed to the present marital circumstances. In most fault divorce cases, both the plaintiff and his spouse must attend the hearing.

Uncontested Vs. Contested Divorce

In an uncontested divorce, both spouses agree to dissolve the marriage. Further, in such divorce cases, both spouses agree on the major material issues, including child custody, division of assets, division of property and financial support payments. In a contested divorce, either one party does not agree to the divorce or the spouses cannot reach agreement on one or more major issues. In contested divorces, the court may require the couple to attend mediation to resolve their disputes. In cases where mediation does not work, the court may hold a trial to resolve the material issues in the case. Both spouses generally must attend these trials, which can be lengthy and costly, as the spouses will need to present evidence and call witnesses to support their respective cases.

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Plaintiffs in Uncontested Divorces

In uncontested divorce cases in states such as Pennsylvania, Georgia and New York, it is possible for the judge to grant a couple a divorce without either party attending the final hearing. In other states, including Tennessee and Arizona, only the plaintiff must attend the final hearing in an uncontested divorce case.

Simplified Divorce

Some states offer simplified divorces for no-fault, uncontested divorce cases for couples with few assets, explains the State Bar of California. In Florida, Illinois and Montana, both spouses must attend the hearing to obtain a simplified divorce. In California, however, neither party needs to attend the final hearing to receive a simplified divorce.

Locating State Laws

Couples can begin to research their state's laws, procedures and rules by contacting the office of the court clerk in the county where they reside. Although court clerks cannot provide legal advice, they can give couples general information on the divorce process. Attorneys, low-income legal aid bureaus and online legal document preparation services can also help divorcing couples find state-specific resources.

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What Happens During a Divorce Hearing in Florida?

References

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What if My Husband Refuses to Mediate the Divorce in Texas?

Divorcing spouses in Texas are encouraged to use mediation as a means of settling their disputes. However, state law does not require spouses to mediate unless a judge orders them to do so. In an effort to facilitate settlement of contested divorces, may counties have established local rules that require mediation before the final hearing. The consequences, if any, for refusing to mediate depend on the type of divorce and local rules of the county where the case has been filed.

Adultery Laws and Alimony

Your spouse’s adulterous relationship may bring an end to your marriage, but it is not always a significant factor in the legal process of divorce. Though many states recognize adultery as grounds for divorce, state laws vary, and when it comes to alimony, your spouse’s adultery may or may not be significant to the divorce court.

Guide to Uncontested Divorce in Minnesota

As compared with a contested divorce, filing an uncontested divorce may save Minnesota residents both time and money. To file an uncontested divorce, the couple must agree that they want to dissolve the marriage and agree on the terms of the divorce. Further, a summary dissolution is an even faster process, but is only available to couples that meet the state's criteria.

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