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A divorce is started by filing a Summons (a court document signed by the party or the attorney for one party), with the county clerk, accompanied by a fee of $210.
For fee, (currently $210), you are given an Index Number, which is the same number that stays with the divorce forever, (it is possible that years after the divorce is concluded motions for enforcement, or interpretation of a settlement agreement are brought before the Court).
In a contested litigation, if I am retained as an individual litigating attorney, and not a mediator, that Index Number is valid for 120 days from the date of filing, until the defendant (the spouse being sued for divorce) is personally served with the Court sanctioned summons.
Once that physical service is complete (and an affidavit of service filed with the County Clerk), the 120 day window closes, and that Index Number remains valid forever.
In divorce mediation, since there is no contest between the parties, and no service needed, (service is accepted to and a process server is not needed), the 120 day window is not relevant, as the Court system encourages settlement and discourages hearings and trials, so the Court allows the Index Number to stay valid for years, if necessary.
I had a recent case where the Wife signed all the paperwork, but the Husband needed her health insurance, so he refused to sign his paperwork needed to submit the divorce for the judge’s signature. Five full years later, he turned 65 and became eligible for Medicare, thereby cancelling the need to remain on his wife’s health insurance policy. The Court honored the original index number and the divorce was granted in 2019 with a 2014 Index Number.
In that particular case, the Wife honored the ‘cut off’ date to the Husband’s 401k plan, in a hot rising stock market, where the Husband’s 401k plan grew by over $100,000. The original agreement was prepared in 2014, and the Wife did the ‘right thing’, by not challenging this.
The prevailing attitude of couples is way different for those who choose to utilize mediation as the vehicle to obtain their divorce, than those who are unable to make decisions about their own lives, and seek a decision from a Judge.
However, clearly many couples are unable to successfully mediate their divorce; usually because they waited too long to start the process, or custody is truly an issue, and the parents can’t decide who should be the primary custodial parent in a joint custody arrangement.
In those cases, our office is unable to mediate the divorce; you need both husband and wife to work on this together with the mediator. For these divorces, my 35 years of experience, and Jeff Heller’s 25 years puts all of that experience and our reputation in the legal community in your corner, as we fight for your rights……especially as it relates to your minor children.