John I think there’s only one way to settle all these problems yeah I think I know where you’re going with this I just don’t see any other way that we can get through this and we have to do what’s best for the kids I honestly think that divorce is the best option so where to we go from here well I don’t know I guess I can go down to the courthouse tomorrow and see mom what’s going on hello I’m Susan Campbell and as you can see ending a marriage I very stressful and trying time.
Especially if you have children it’s a difficult for most people think hard about the emotional financial and family consequences before you decide to go ahead with a divorce we’re here to help guild you though the legal process of a Maine divorce with children and to let you know that you are not alone I recent years the nation divorce rate was more than half the marriage rate in Maine several thousand divorces happen every year and many are filled without a lawyer we’re here to show you some of the ins and the outs filing for divorce.
But before we get into the exact process there are some issues you need to address first and foremost do you need a lawyer we recommend you consult with a lawyer if you can afford one we also suggest getting a lawyer if you have complex property issues, pensions, or retirement accounts, arguments over children, a history of domestic abuse, or other difficult problems in the case of domestic abuse we recommend that you seek support from the domestic violence program the number 1866834HELP if you need a lawyer but you can’t affordone you may want to call the Maine Volunteer Lawyers Project VLP at 18004424293.
Maine Divorce with Children StepbyStep
They may be able to provide a lawyer for free but that’s not a guarantee for everybody some lawyers are willing to help you with parts of your divorce for a lower fee if you think you can pay something for limited legal advice you may want to try the Maine State BAR Association’s information and referral service at 18008601460 if none of these options work out for you then you may have no other choice but to move forward on your own at this point you may be wondering how much this is going to cost.
Even if you don’t end up with a lawyer’s bill there are some expenses you should expect to pay these fees are subject to change summons forms $5, filing fee $120, service fee $3050, mediation fee $160 $80 for each party you can ask the court to wave the fees if you have low income and you cannot afford them if at any point during tis process you start to feel overwhelmed stop, take a deep breath and remember you are not alone you can get through this so let’s get started.
First you’ll need to get the court forms if you have internet access you can download fillable versions of most of the forms you’re going to need by going to the Pine Tree Legal Assistance website however you must purchase a paper copy of the court summons from court clerk’s office if you prefer you can puck up forms at local district courts throughout the state of Maine once you have the forms you’ll need to fill them out there are instructions on how to do this on the front page of the packet and online.
Refer to this information throughout the process if you have a low income and you need additional assistance it’s available the Maine Volunteer Lawyers Project offers a help line for this issue you may also get help from a courthouse assistance project if there’s one at your local court many public libraries also offer help with accessing the online fillable forms Pine Tree Legal also offers online forms thatask you to answer a series of questions about yourself your family and fills out the forms for you once you’ve finished filling out your forms it’s time to serve and file the papers.
You’ll need to make two copies one for youto keep and one to be delivered to your spouse first, you’ll serve to copies on your spouse, then you will file the original papers with the court clerk the least expensive ways to serve the papers on your spouse is hand delivering them or sending them by mail again follow the instructions in your forms packet if your spouse refuses to sign them you can use the service by sheriff method this means an official will go to your spouse’s home or work place and serve the papers in person.
This will cost more but you may be able to get a fee wavier ask the court clerk about this once the papers are served you can file the originals with the court if you receive court papers from your spouse you can avoid being served by a sheriff if you sign acknowledgement of service form and send it back to your spouse you should get an entry of appearance form from the court in the mail or you can get one online or from the court clerk’s office it’s important to fill out and file this form with the court so you will be notified of.
Court dates if you do nothing the court will assume that you do not want to participate a default judgment may be entered against you meaning that you will not have any say in the matter when filing any paper with the court always mail a copy to the other copy or their lawyer if they have one make a second copy of all of you court paper put them in a file and keep the file updated always take it with you when you go to court it’s also a good idea to keep dated notes about what’s happening with your court case.
Remember the court needs current phone numbers and address for you and your spouse at all times if you change your address or phone number while your case is going on notify the court clerk in writing this way the court can contact you with important information and with court dates the next step will be a case management conference don’t worry if this seems to be taking a while the court takes at least two weeks to send both parties a scheduled conference time if you’ve waited longer than this check with the court clerk to make sure that your case is on track.
A court magistrate will be there to run the conference he or she is there to help you understand the court process and to move your case along the magistrate will help determine the legal issues in your case where you agree and disagree and schedule the next steps during this first conference you will talk with the magistrate about parental rights issues and if there is time division of property issues the more prepared you are the more progress you can make if it works with you and your spouse try to talk before the conference to see if you can work out at least some of these issues.
Bring all relevant financial information such as proof of income, and child related costs like daycare and health insurance if you and your spouse can agree on all of the relevant issues and can document your financial picture then the magistrate may schedule you for an uncontested final hearing if there are still disagreements the next step will be mediation a trained mediator will try to help you agree on additional issues, your must mediate in good faith but if you feel threatened or in danger because if abuse in your relationship, let somebody know.
If at any time during these proceedings you feel threatened take a break and tell the mediator how your feeling if there is a protection from abuse order in place you can be placed in a separate room again, the most pressing issues concern the wellbeing of your children during mediation the goal is to come to an agreement that puts your kids first because of this the mediator will focus on building an agreement on the following issues how to plan to address parental rights and responsibilities, where the children will live,.
When the children will have contact with each parent, the amount of child support, how the children’s health care will be covered, who will pay for housing costs and any other issues that will an immediate impact on the children after these issues are decided it time to move on to other concerns such as spousal support, how you’ll divide your marital property, and how you’ll divide payment of debts and bills the mediator will help you write up these agreements on these issues at the mediation session now if you run out of time but you think you may be able to reach agreement on more issues.
The court can schedule you for a second mediation session your next step may be status conference with the magistrate once the court has a good sense of where both parties stand on the issues the magistrate will determine what further steps are needed it may mean more mediation or another conference with the magistrate or a judge as a final step you will have a contested or an uncontested court hearing this may be magistrate or a judge if you have agreed on all of the terms of your divorce your final step the formal uncontested court hearing will be simple.
The judge will listen to both of you and to any witness you have and make a final decision on unresolved issues be prepared and stay calm divorces are tough but with legal support and support with your family and friends you can do this we hope this information help you get started take one step at a time ask questions and remember you are not alone For additional help pleas contact Volunteer Lawyer’s Project at 18004424293 for online help including interactive court forms go to the Pine Tree Legal Assistance website at ptlacourtforms.