Q. I have to go to court for a pre-trial conference next month. I am incredibly nervous to see my husband again. Last time I saw him he was being lead away in handcuffs when I had to call the police. I did not get a restraining order because I’m not sure I can handle the process of going to court with him.
We have not been to court yet for our divorce and I have no idea what to expect. He was the one who filed so I’ve never even been in the courthouse. Can you tell me what it is like and what I should expect that day?
A. Let’s start with what to do before you get to court. If you have not already done so, you should write up an answer to his divorce complaint saying you agree or disagree with each paragraph in the complaint. You should, in the same document, write up a “Counterclaim for Divorce” and copy the paragraph format of what was said in his complaint only you are the plaintiff this time. Then you should bring this to the court to file. Bringing it to the court gives you a dry run and you can see what it looks like inside.
If you file a counterclaim for divorce and your husband fails to show up for the pre-trial conference, the judge can enter a judgment for divorce that day. But, if you don’t have a counterclaim on file and he fails to show up, his complaint will probably be dismissed, and you would have to start over.
The next thing you want to do in advance is fill out the financial statement form listing all of your income, expenses, assets and liabilities so the judge understands the finances. And, you need to write a pre-trial memorandum where you tell the judge your side of the issues, including the incident that lead to his arrest, and how you want your divorce resolved. Ideally you should file them three days before the hearing but if not, bring both things to court the day of the pre-trial conference with copies for your husband.
That day, get to court early. There are court officers assigned to every courtroom. Tell the officer about the criminal charges and that you were too afraid to get a restraining order – you could even ask for a restraining order that day since you are there. Tell the courtroom clerk too so that you are not sent to mediate with him. When the hearing is over, stay in the courthouse until an officer has made sure he has left the premises.
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