What to Expect

Commencing an Action

A divorce or legal separation case begins when the plaintiff a party files a formal complaint at the courthouse. The defendant, the other party, may answer within 28 days. If an answer is filed, the case is contested. If the defendant does not file an answer, the case is uncontested.

When a divorce is filed, mutual restraining orders are put into effect and remain until the case is finalized. Both parties are restrained from: a) selling, transferring or destroying assets; b) threatening, abusing or interfering with the other party; c) incurring further credit; d) changing insurance coverage; and e) removing the children from Wood County.

Either party may request a temporary hearing, which is conducted by a magistrate who makes orders concerning parental rights, responsibilities and support. One spouse may be ordered to move out of the marital home. These temporary orders remain in effect until the court modifies them or the case ends.

When a case is contested, a pretrial conference is held with a magistrate within several months after the complaint is filed. Each party completes an affidavit of assets and liabilities to be submitted before this conference or at this time. This is an informal hearing. The issues are reviewed to determine what additional information is needed, what the parties can agree upon and what issues are in dispute.

Another pretrial conference may be held two to three months later. The parties and their attorneys determine if their case can be settled. If an agreement can be reached at this point, the matter may be finalized. If not, a trial time is scheduled.

At trial, the plaintiff first presents his or her case, including grounds for the divorce, financial information, property and the welfare of the children. The defendant has the opportunity to present evidence to explain and dispute the plaintiff's evidence.

After all the evidence has been presented, each side may give oral or written arguments to explain to the court what he or she is requesting and why the request is reasonable and appropriate.

The Court then issues a Decision which is filed with the Clerk. The parties have 14 days to object to the Decision if they choose. When filing objections, it is necessary to submit a transcript of the hearing. To obtain a transcript, it is necessary to contact the Domestic Relations office to make arrangements for payment.

If the case is uncontested, it is set for final hearing several months after the complaint is filed. The defendant is notified but is not expected to contest the grounds for the divorce. He or she will then provide information on the allocation of parental rights and responsibilities, child support, division or property and spousal support. The Court will then make a final Decision.

You may visit the following website to help prepare you for what to expect when you go into court:
The segments under "Courts", "Civil Pre-Trial Proceedings", and "Trials" will be the most pertinent to Domestic Relations Court.