Western Mass. Legal Services PRO SE DIVORCE CLINIC OVERVIEW

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1 Western Mass. Legal Services PRO SE DIVORCE CLINIC OVERVIEW

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3 CONTENTS INTRODUCTION... 1 CAN YOU GET DIVORCED IN MASSACHUSETTS?... 3 CAN YOU FILE YOUR DIVORCE IN BERKSHIRE COUNTY?... 4 THE DIVORCE PROCESS... 6 HOW MUCH DOES A DIVORCE COST?... 7 GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE... 8 No-Fault Divorce... 9 Fault Divorce THE DIVORCE PAPERS MY CHILDREN LIVE WITH ME. SHOULD I GET A COURT ORDER FOR CUSTODY? HOW DO I DO THAT? I DO NOT SPEAK ENGLISH. I NEED AN INTERPRETER. HOW DO I GET ONE FOR MY HEARING..15 HOW DO I FILE MY DIVORCE PAPERS IN COURT? HOW DO I SERVE MY SPOUSE? PERSONAL SERVICE BY SHERIFF ACCEPTANCE OF SERVICE SERVICE BY PUBLICATION DO I HAVE TO TELL DOR ABOUT MY DIVORCE? I HAVE FILED MY PAPERS. I HAVE SERVED MY SPOUSE. I GAVE MY PAPERS TO DOR. NOW WHAT? WHAT HAPPENS AT MY DIVORCE HEARING? i

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5 INTRODUCTION When you get a divorce, the Court ends your marriage. Through the divorce, the Court decides who gets custody of children of the marriage, who gets visitation, and who pays support, property and debts from the marriage are divided, and you can have your name changed back to your name before the marriage or to your birth name. In Massachusetts you have the right to represent yourself in any legal matter, including divorce. Representing yourself is called pro se (which means for yourself ) and should only be done in certain circumstances. In all other cases you are advised to find an attorney to represent you. Pro se divorces are recommended when you and your spouse have agreed about custody of your children, support, and important issues about dividing property and debts. A pro se divorce may also be possible when you do not know where your spouse is and he or she will not be involved in the divorce process. 1

6 IF YOU THINK THAT YOUR SPOUSE WILL FIGHT YOU ABOUT CUSTODY, SUPPORT, OR DIVISION OF PROPERTY AND DEBTS, YOU SHOULD GET AN ATTORNEY TO REPRESENT YOU. Western Massachusetts Legal Services sometimes can help you find an attorney if you are low income. If you think you need an attorney for your divorce, please talk with us. 2

7 CAN YOU GET DIVORCED IN MASSACHUSETTS? You can get divorced in Massachusetts if you live in Massachusetts and one of these things applies to you: You have lived in Massachusetts for at least a year, even if your spouse lives somewhere else; OR The reason you re getting divorced happened here; OR You and your spouse lived together in Massachusetts at some time as husband and wife AND the reason you re getting divorced happened somewhere else, but at least one of you lived here when it happened. 3

8 CAN YOU FILE YOUR DIVORCE IN BERKSHIRE COUNTY? Once you know you can file for divorce in Massachusetts, you need to see if you can file it in Berkshire County. Here s what the rules say: If you lived together in Massachusetts, then you must file for divorce in the county you last lived together if either you or your spouse still lives there; OR you can file in the county where you live or in the county where your spouse lives IF both of you moved out of the county where you last lived together. If you never lived together with your spouse in Massachusetts, then you file in the county where you live. 4

9 Divorces are filed in Probate and Family Court. There is only one Probate and Family Court in Berkshire County. It is in Pittsfield at 44 Bank Row The telephone number for Probate and Family Court is (413) The office hours are 8:30 am to 4:00 pm. 5

10 THE DIVORCE PROCESS Here is an outline of what should happen in an uncontested divorce. WHAT YOU DO Fill out and file divorce forms in court Serve papers on your spouse Serve papers on DOR if necessary File return of service in court If you have children, go to court hearing on temporary orders if necessary If you have children, take the Families in Transition (FIT) course File a Request for Pre-Trial/ Trial Assignment form Prepare a pretrial memo if necessary OR sign a separation agreement together with spouse if possible Go to the pretrial hearing if necessary Go to hearing on trial date WHAT YOUR SPOUSE SHOULD DO Accept service Accept service File answer Go to court hearing on temporary orders Take FIT course Prepare a pretrial memo if necessary OR sign a separation agreement together with spouse if possible Go to the pretrial hearing if necessary Go to hearing on trial date 6

11 HOW MUCH DOES A DIVORCE COST? Divorce costs money. IF YOU CANNOT AFFORD TO PAY THESE COSTS, you can fill out an Affidavit of Indigency so that you do not have to pay some (see page 14). This means some fees are waived. Some fees cannot be waived. We will cover this in the clinic and later in the overview. STANDARD COSTS: KIND OF COST AMOUNT CAN IT BE WAIVED? Filing fee $220 includes summons, $215 for joint complaint YES Service by sheriff $25-$50 In Massachusetts, YES. In other states, sometimes. Service by publication $50-$200 PROBABLY NOT Certified marriage certificate $3- $10 NO FIT course $80 Reduced to $5 OTHER FEES When you divide up property, there can be many different kinds of fees, such as changing names on deeds and mortgages, assessor s fees, closing fees, etc. This could cost anywhere from $30 - $400. These fees cannot be waived. 7

12 GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE To get a divorce in Massachusetts, you must give the Court a reason, or grounds, for wanting it. There are eight grounds for divorce in Massachusetts, but this clinic deals with only two of them. These two grounds for divorce are: Irretrievable breakdown (also known as no fault ), and Cruel and abusive treatment (one of the fault grounds). The other grounds for divorce are not used often or may be harder to prove. There are three big differences between a fault divorce and a no-fault divorce. 1. One difference is that your divorce judgment will say either cruel and abusive treatment or it will say irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. 2. Another difference is that there is no waiting period for asking for a trial date in a fault divorce. In a no fault divorce, there is a six month waiting period between the time you file your Complaint for Divorce and the earliest you could get a trial date unless you and your spouse agree to file a joint petition (which we will talk about later). 3. The last big difference is that you need to prove cruel and abusive treatment. Whether you choose to file a fault divorce or a no fault divorce does NOT affect court decisions about custody or property. Issues about abuse can be raised when talking about custody and visitation even in a no-fault divorce. 8

13 No-Fault Divorce: Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage This is the no fault ground for divorce. Instead of having to prove that someone was at fault, you are saying that you and your spouse have serious differences which make your marriage unworkable. There are two kinds of no-fault divorce. They are called 1A and 1B: 1A : Joint Petition divorce In a Joint Petition, you and your spouse file for the divorce together. This can only be done if you and your spouse agree on all the terms of the divorce. You and your spouse must file a separation agreement that outlines your custody and support arrangements and the division of property. You must also file a joint affidavit (a sworn statement) describing the breakdown of the marriage. You must both be low- income to have fees waived. There is no waiting period for a hearing date if you file this kind of divorce. You still have to take the FIT course if you have kids. 1B : Complaint for Divorce In this kind of divorce, you file a Complaint for Divorce that you make out alone. Your spouse is not required to attend the final hearing. You must serve your spouse. We will talk about this later. The period between serving your spouse the divorce papers and your trial date must be at least six months. 9

14 Fault Divorce: Cruel and Abusive Treatment The ground for fault divorce we discuss in this clinic is cruel and abusive treatment. This is the most common type of fault divorce. Cruel and abusive treatment must be mental or physical cruelty that affected you physically. If there was not actual physical violence you will have to tell the court how the mental cruelty affected you physically. For example, the mental cruelty may have: 1) caused you to lose or gain weight; 2) made you depressed, nervous or unable to concentrate; 3) affected your health badly; or 4) made you unable to perform your job. Your spouse may contest this as the grounds of your divorce. You may have to provide proof of the cruel and abusive treatment and how it affected you. You may prove cruel and abusive treatment with things like police reports, restraining orders, financial records, medical records or records from your job. 10

15 THE DIVORCE PAPERS Filing for divorce means a lot of paperwork. Don t lose heart! Go slow one form at a time. Here is a list of the forms that you need to file your divorce. Don t sign them until you are ready to file them in Court. Keep copies of everything. There are samples and practice forms in your packet. There will be more forms later, but work on these first. ü 1. Affidavit of Indigency Getting a divorce costs money (see page 7). Persons with low income can file an Affidavit of Indigency so that you do not have to pay the filing fees, the costs of serving your spouse and other things you ask not to pay for. Also, your FIT course fee is reduced to $5.00. If you are on TAFDC, EAEDC, SSI, MassHealth or state Veterans Services benefits, your Affidavit of Indigency will be approved. You will also be approved if your income is below 125% of the federal poverty level. Bring proof of your income to the Probate Court clerk s office when you file the form just in case you need it. If you do not receive any of these public benefits and your income is above 125% of the federal poverty level, you may still qualify for the fee waiver, but you have to fill out a second form called the Supplement to the Affidavit of Indigency. ü 2. Complaint for Divorce This tells the Court and your spouse that you are filing for divorce, the grounds for your divorce and what you want in the divorce. 11

16 ü 3. Certificate of Absolute Divorce or Annulment This form is used for record keeping at the Bureau of Vital Statistics, the place that keeps track of all marriages, divorces, births and deaths. ü 4. Military Affidavit In this form you tell the Court whether or not your spouse is in the military. ü 5. Financial Statement This is a detailed statement of all your finances your income and expenses, anything you own, your bank accounts, etc. You may have to fill this out more than once during the course of your divorce, so always keep copies! That will make it a lot easier to fill out the second and third time. ü 6. Order for Support & Health Care Coverage If support or alimony is going to be ordered, the court will use this form. The Court wants this to be filled out in all cases, just so they have it on file. ü 7. A certified copy of your Marriage Certificate You don t need to fill one out but you need to get this from the town or city hall where you were married. You must request the long form and it must be certified with a raised seal. You will have to pay for this form. IF YOU DON T HAVE CHILDREN, YOU ARE DONE FOR NOW. IF YOU HAVE CHILDREN, YOU NEED TO FILL OUT A FEW MORE FORMS 12

17 ü 8. Affidavit Disclosing Care and Custody Proceedings This form tells the Court if there have been any other court actions involving your children, including restraining orders, paternity cases or child support cases. ü 9. Department of Revenue Application This form has to be filled out when you have children from the marriage. ü 10. Affidavit of Public Assistance This form tells the court whether you or your children have received any kind of public assistance, such as TAFDC or MassHealth. IF YOU HAVE CHILDREN, YOU MAY ALSO WANT TO FILE MOTIONS FOR TEMPORARY ORDERS FOR CUSTODY AND VISITATION. TO LEARN WHY AND HOW TO DO THIS, READ THE NEXT SECTION. 13

18 MY CHILDREN LIVE WITH ME. SHOULD I GET A COURT ORDER FOR CUSTODY? HOW DO I DO THAT? When you are married and have children, you and your spouse legally share custody of the children until there is a court order which says something else. If you believe it is in your children s best interests that they stay with you, you may want to ask the Court for temporary orders for custody and child support. To do this, you need to file: ü 12. A Motion for temporary orders for custody and child support which asks the court for these orders, and ü 13. A Proposed Order which the court can sign if your motion is approved. There are sample forms, practice forms and good forms in your packets. Fill the forms out. Make 2 copies of each form, both sides. Bring them to the clerk at the Court. You can bring these forms when you bring your other divorce papers. Ask for a hearing date and time at least 14 days away. You have to give your spouse at least 7 days notice, so allow enough time to serve your spouse. Write the hearing date and time on the copies of your Motion form. Give your spouse copies of this motion and proposed order by serving them with your other divorce papers. You will want to serve these papers soon. We tell you how to serve your spouse on pages 17 through 22. If you have already served your spouse the divorce papers, you can serve these papers on your spouse by mailing them first class mail if you know where he or she lives. 14

19 I DO NOT SPEAK ENGLISH. I NEED AN INTERPRETER. HOW DO I GET ONE FOR MY HEARING? To ask the Court for an interpreter, you need to file ü 14 A Motion for an interpreter to ask the court for an interpreter in your language, and ü 13. A Proposed Order which the court can sign if your motion is approved. HOW DO I FILE MY DIVORCE PAPERS IN COURT? You filled out all your forms. You got a certified copy of your marriage certificate. Now you can file your divorce papers in Probate and Family Court. Here s a checklist telling you how: 15

20 1. Right before you go to Court to file your papers, sign and date your forms. 2. MAKE 3 COPIES OF EVERYTHING if you have kids. Make 2 copies if you don t. Keep one full set of copies for your records. You will be giving the other set of copies to your spouse. You will give the third set to the Department of Revenue if you have kids. 3. Bring the original forms and marriage certificate to the clerk s office in Probate and Family Court and give them to the clerk. 4. Ask that your Affidavit of Indigency be approved. 5. Make arrangements to get a copy of your approved Affidavit of Indigency if you can t get a copy the same day you are there. 6. Ask for a Summons form. 7. Ask for a hearing date if you are filing a motion for temporary orders for custody and support. Write it on the copies of the motion form. 8. Make arrangements with the clerk to get your docket number. This is the number the clerk will assign to your divorce case. 9. Write the docket number on all the copies of your forms. NOW YOUR DIVORCE CASE IS FILED 16

21 AND YOU ARE READY TO SERVE YOUR SPOUSE. 17

22 HOW DO I SERVE MY SPOUSE? Once you file your divorce case, you must serve the papers on your spouse. This lets the Court know that you have told your spouse that you have filed for divorce and gives him or her an opportunity to answer. Serving your divorce papers on your spouse is called service of process. If you can t prove service of process, you can t go forward with your divorce. Service of process must be done a certain way. There are 3 different ways for you to serve papers on your spouse, depending on whether you have contact with your spouse or not. They are: personal service by sheriff, acceptance of service, and service by publication. 18

23 PERSONAL SERVICE BY SHERIFF If you know where your spouse is, then your spouse can be served by the sheriff. Here s how: Fill out the top of the Summons form (see the sample in the Service Packet ). Make 2 copies one for you and one for the sheriff. Call the sheriff in the County where your spouse lives and explain you will be mailing or bringing the sheriff the paperwork for serving your Complaint for Divorce. Give the sheriff: a cover letter asking the sheriff to serve your spouse and telling the sheriff your spouse s address at home and/or work. Also, give the sheriff your telephone number. You can use the form letter in the Service Packet, a copy of your approved Affidavit of Indigency for the sheriff, if you are asking that the sheriff waive his fee, the original Summons with the top filled out, plus one copy, a big envelope for the sheriff to give your spouse with these things in it: one set of copies of the forms you filed in Court (except for the Affidavit of Indigency), and if you want, a letter to your spouse with a blank Financial Statement and, if you have children, the leaflet about the FIT course. This may help things move along. There is a sample letter in the Service Packet. 19

24 The sheriff will give your spouse these papers and will fill out the Certificate of Service on the back of the Summons stating that your spouse has been served. The Berkshire County sheriff will send the completed summons to Probate Court and a copy to you. If the sheriff you use does not do that, Get the completed original Summons from the sheriff. Make a copy of both sides for your records. Take the original completed Summons back to Court. They will put the Summons in your file. FOR BERKSHIRE COUNTY: You can drop off your papers for service at either 264 Second Street, Pittsfield (the old jail); or at Superior Court in Pittsfield (there is a drop-off box in the hallway); or by mail to 467 Cheshire Rd., Pittsfield, MA To talk to the Sheriff s office, call

25 ACCEPTANCE OF SERVICE If you have contact with your spouse and your spouse will accept the divorce complaint and return the Summons form to you signed and notarized, then you can do Acceptance of Service. Here s how: 1. Fill out the top of the Summons form (see the Service Packet ). Make a copy. 2. Give or mail your spouse these things: the original Summons form (keep a copy); the set of copies of the divorce forms that you made for your spouse (do NOT include the Affidavit of Indigency); and if you want, a blank Financial Statement and the paper about the FIT course if you have children this may help things move along. See the sample in the Service Packet. 3. Have your spouse sign the original Summons in front of a Notary Public and have it notarized. (Your spouse should bring a current picture ID.) Your spouse needs to give or mail you this signed and notarized Summons form to prove service. This is your proof of service. You may want to meet your spouse at the notary s office to make sure you get the completed Summons back. 4. Make a copy of both sides of the signed and notarized summons and keep the copy for your records. 5. Take the original completed Summons back to the Court and file it with the clerk. 21

26 SERVICE BY PUBLICATION If you do not know where your spouse is (address of home or work) you still must serve notice of the pending divorce. But because you cannot find your spouse, you will do service by publication. Service by publication is a last resort and has to be approved by the Court. Before you can do this, you have to show the Court that you can t serve your spouse another way. If you have to do service by publication, talk with the clerk at Probate and Family Court. The clerk will probably give you a form to fill out. Service by publication means that notice of the divorce will have to be published in a newspaper in the area where your spouse last lived. This kind of service also costs money but you may be able to get some of the costs waived if your Affidavit of Indigency was approved, depending on where your spouse last lived. 22

27 IMPORTANT For you: once you file your divorce papers For your spouse: once he or she is served ê There is a freeze on marital assets and debts. Neither you nor your spouse is supposed to sell, give away, hide or change anything! AND Once your spouse is served, he or she has 20 days to file an answer and 45 days to file a financial statement. The answer will tell you whether your spouse is contesting anything. If you get the answer and you think you will have problems in your divorce, talk with us or an attorney. 23

28 DO I HAVE TO TELL DOR ABOUT MY DIVORCE? IF YOU HAVE CHILDREN OR YOU OR YOUR CHILDREN EVER RECEIVED PUBLIC ASSISTANCE, YOU HAVE TO TELL DOR ABOUT YOUR DIVORCE. To do this, you need to serve your papers on DOR. The easiest way to serve your papers is to deliver your divorce papers to the DOR Child Support office in Pittsfield. To deliver your divorce papers to DOR, gather your third set of copies of your divorce papers (make sure they have your docket number on them); bring this third set of copies to the DOR office at 703 West Housatonic Street, Suite 210 in Pittsfield; hand your papers to someone who works in the DOR office and tell them you have filed a divorce. DOR s local phone number is

29 I HAVE FILED MY PAPERS. I HAVE SERVED MY SPOUSE. I GAVE MY PAPERS TO DOR. NOW WHAT? 1. FIRST, IF YOU HAVE CHILDREN UNDER 18, you must sign up and take the Families in Transition (FIT) course. The course fills up fast so call quick to get a space. When you finish the course, you will get a certificate. File the certificate at the clerk s office at Probate and Family Court. IF YOU DO NOT SPEAK ENGLISH, you may ask the Court to waive the FIT classes for you. This means you do not have to take the classes. Berkshire County does FIT classes in English only. To ask the court to waive the FIT classes, you must file a motion and proposed order. Fill out the motion and proposed order forms. Make 2 copies of each form, both sides. Bring them to the clerk at the Court. Ask for a hearing date and time at least 14 days away. Write the hearing date and time on the copies of your Motion form. Mail one set of the copies of both forms to your spouse at least 10 days before the hearing date. Go to the hearing. 25

30 2. Your spouse must also take the Families in Transition course and file his/her certificate with the court. You and your spouse cannot take the Families in Transition course at the same time. If your spouse lives out of state, he or she should contact the family court in that state to see if they have a similar course there. If so, your spouse can probably take that course. Your spouse should check with the Probate and Family Court in Pittsfield to make sure that is OK. If your spouse will not take the Families in Transition course, you will have to file a Motion to Compel him or her to attend the course. With your Motion, you also have to file a Proposed Order form. Fill the forms out, both sides Make 2 copies of each form, both sides Bring them to the clerk at the Court Ask for a hearing date and time at least 10 days away Write the hearing date and time on the Motion form Mail one set of copies of both forms to your spouse at least 10 days before the hearing date Fill out the back of the Motion form saying that you mailed the motion to your spouse. See the sample forms in your red packet. The clerks at the Probate Court will help you. They are very nice. Go to the hearing 26

31 2. NEXT, YOU FILL OUT ANOTHER FORM CALLED REQUEST FOR A PRE-TRIAL/TRIAL ASSIGNMENT FORM If your spouse did not file an Answer and is not contesting anything, you can mark your divorce as uncontested on the form and estimate that the hearing will take about 15 minutes. If your spouse filed an answer and disagreed with something, that means he or she is contesting something. You will mark on the form that the case is contested and check off the issues that your spouse contests. You will need to estimate the time you need for the pretrial hearing. Think about how long it will take you to tell the Judge your side and allow some time for your spouse to talk. If you think you are going to have a serious problem, you need to talk with an attorney. NOTE: The time between filing your divorce and when you request a trial date is when you and your spouse can do what lawyers call discovery. Discovery is the way you collect important information from the other side in a court case. For example, you may think your spouse is hiding money so you want financial records. You get them through discovery. If you think you need discovery in your case, you need a lawyer. 27

32 You and your spouse will get your Request for Pre-Trial/Trial Assignment form back with a hearing date on the bottom. If your divorce in uncontested, you will get a trial date. This will be the hearing for your divorce. If your divorce is contested, you will get a pretrial conference date. You will also get a notice called Pretrial Notice and Order telling you to meet with your spouse to do a pretrial memo together. If you can t meet with your spouse, you will do your own memo. Read the Pretrial Notice carefully. It will tell you when your memo is due in Court. 3. Go to your hearing. 28

33 WHAT HAPPENS AT MY DIVORCE HEARING? 1. BEFORE THE DAY OF YOUR HEARING, REREAD ALL YOUR FORMS. Make sure you know what you asked for in your divorce complaint and any temporary orders. Think about anything that may have changed since you filed your Complaint for Divorce and how that affects what you are asking for. 2. BEFORE THE DAY OF YOUR HEARING, MAKE SURE YOU KNOW WHERE THE PROBATE AND FAMILY COURT IS, where you can park and that you have made any special arrangements you need. For example, do you have someone ready to watch your child? Did you file a motion if you need an interpreter? 3. ON THE DAY OF YOUR HEARING, GO TO THE COURT AT LEAST 30 MINUTES BEFORE YOUR HEARING TIME. Don t be late. Bring the copies of all your forms so you can look at them if you need to. Do not bring children. Dress nicely-- no shorts or tank top. 4. WHEN YOU GET TO THE COURTHOUSE, GO TO THE CLERK S OFFICE AND TELL THEM YOU ARE THERE. Then wait. You may have to wait a long time for your hearing. Make sure you stay where you can hear if a Court officer calls your case. The Court officer will call your case when the Judge is ready to hear you. 5. YOU WILL BE CALLED INTO THE COURTROOM, YOU MAY BE SEATED UNTIL YOUR CASE IS CALLED When the clerk calls your case, go and stand behind one of the two large tables. Your spouse should stand behind the other one. Stay standing until the Judge tells you that you may sit. 29

34 6. DO NOT TALK, CHEW GUM, EAT OR DRINK IN THE COURTROOM. 7. REMEMBER TO ALWAYS STAND WHEN YOU SPEAK TO THE JUDGE OR THE JUDGE SPEAKS TO YOU. BE RESPECTFUL. Speak clearly. Call the Judge Your Honor. DO NOT INTERRUPT YOUR SPOUSE WHEN IT IS HIS OR HER TURN TO SPEAK. Do not talk to your spouse. Talk only to the Judge. 8. LISTEN TO THE JUDGE AND FOLLOW THE JUDGE S INSTRUCTIONS. The Judge will explain how he or she will hear your testimony. You may be asked to take the witness stand or you may be told you can stay at the table. The Court Officer will ask you to raise your right hand and swear to tell the truth. You say I do. The Judge will usually ask you questions to help you through the hearing. The information you will be asked to give includes: Your full name Your current address The date of your marriage The address where you last lived together The date you last lived together The number of children born to you and your spouse, their names and birth dates Why you are in court (to ask for a divorce) The grounds for your divorce (on the ground of irretrievable breakdown or cruel and abusive treatment) what you are looking for (such as child custody and support, visitation schedule, division of marital assets and debts, name change, etc.). 30

35 For example, to answer the last three questions, you might say I m asking for a divorce on the grounds of irretrievable breakdown and for sole legal and physical custody of my child, support, permission to change my name back to, and a division of marital property and debt. If you had temporary orders that you want permanent, you could ask the Judge to continue the temporary orders that gave you... (whatever the orders gave you). 9. THE JUDGE WILL ASK YOU TO GIVE DETAILS ABOUT THE GROUND OF YOUR DIVORCE. If it is irretrievable breakdown of your marriage, it might be something like: I asked my husband to move out on September 15 because we knew our marriage was not working. We disagreed about everything and argued all the time. We tried to work things out many times, but that did not help. There is no hope for reconciliation. I now want a divorce. If your ground for divorce is cruel and abusive treatment, you must describe the treatment and the effect it had on you. If you do not provide testimony on both the cruel treatment and the effect, the Judge may not grant your divorce. For example, someone might say I asked my spouse to move out on September 15, While we were married, my spouse punched me in the stomach when I was pregnant. He used to call me offensive names. At one point I lost 25 pounds because I was so depressed I could not eat. This is just an example. You will have to talk about your situation and give the Judge as much detail as necessary to show cruel and abusive treatment. The Judge will probably ask you questions about what happened. 31

36 10. WHEN YOU ARE FINISHED, THE JUDGE WILL ASK YOUR SPOUSE TO TESTIFY. REMEMBER, do NOT interrupt your spouse when he or she is speaking. 11. WHEN ALL THE TESTIMONY IS DONE, the Judge may tell you that he or she is granting your divorce and what the Court is ordering, or the Judge may say I am taking the orders under advisement. You will get a written Judgment of Divorce Nisi in the mail telling you what the Judge decided. YOUR DIVORCE IS FINAL 90 DAYS AFTER THE DIVORCE NISI WHEN THE COURT ISSUES THE DIVORCE ABSOLUTE. This final divorce paper may be mailed to you or you may have to go to Court to get it. 32

37 YOU ARE DONE! YOU DID IT! 33

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