The court has given you this Order to make sure that your case moves forward as quickly as possible. This information is to help you understand what this Order requires you to do.
About the “Financial Statement”
Get this form from the court clerk, use the fillable .pdf version of the form. Check the information you received with your court forms packet. It includes instructions about the financial statement.
About the "Discovery Deadline"
"Discovery" is the formal process of finding out information about the other party. In a divorce, this usually means "discovering" financial information. In the simplest cases, the information you disclose on the required Financial Statement court form will be enough. You and the court can use this information to decide how to fairly divide your property and debts. In this case, you do not need to worry about further "discovery."
However, if you or the other party has lots of assets — like pensions, real estate, or business holdings, you may need "discovery." Also, if you think that the other party is hiding income or assets from you, or if you are asking for spousal support, you may need discovery. You can “discover” financial information by sending the party a list of questions for them to answer or requesting a list of documents. Because requesting discovery and answering discovery requests can be complicated, you should try to get a lawyer to help you with your case if possible.
If you and your spouse don't agree on all the issues (how all property and debts will be divided, spousal support, etc.), you may want to mediate to see if you can reach an agreement. In a divorce without children, the court won't require the parties to mediate, so if you want to mediate, you have to ask for mediation. You will meet with a mediator who is a trained neutral person who will help you and your spouse discuss all the issues and try to reach an agreement.
You can ask to be scheduled for mediation by asking the judge in person at your first court date. If you want to be scheduled for mediation sooner, you can ask for mediation by writing the clerk a letter. Make sure you send a copy of your letter to your spouse.
The court charges $80 per party for mediation. This will let you meet with a court mediator for up to two (approximately) three-hour sessions. If you can't afford the $80 mediation fee, you can ask for a fee waiver. Ask the judge or the clerk for the fee waiver application and affidavit, or you can find them here.
If you live in Southern Maine, you can also choose to mediate outside the court through the Opportunity Alliance, located in South Portland. The Opportunity Alliance offers mediation services on a sliding scale fee system and the services are open to anyone who needs them regardless of ability to pay.
About Witness and Exhibit Lists
If you expect to be using witnesses (other than yourself) or exhibits (like financial records), the court requires you to provide a list of these people and items before your court hearing. At the same time you will need to list what issues you will be asking the court to decide. For example, what assets and debts need to be divided? What, if any, spousal support will be ordered?
If you don't follow this order (like by not following the schedule the court has set), the court can penalize you. The court may:
- dismiss your case
- "default" you—meaning that your side of the issues will not be heard and considered; the court will give an Order based on what the other party is asking for
- decide that you cannot use witnesses or exhibits at your hearing because you did not disclose them before the deadline
- make you pay for any losses the other party had because you didn't follow the Order
What if I can’t meet this schedule?
As the Order says, it will become final within 10 days of the Order's date. If you don't think you can meet these deadlines, you must notify the Court in writing before this 10 day deadline. Otherwise, the court will assume that you will follow the order. File any objections with the court clerk and send a copy to the other party. After this 10 day period, it will be much harder to get the court to change the schedule.
Always notify the court and the other party any time you can't make a court date or meet a court deadline. Even if you do this, you can still be penalized for not following the Order, but this may help you to avoid the harshest sanctions.
Finally, if at any time you and the other party agree on all issues involved in your divorce, send a letter to the court asking for an “uncontested hearing date.” This means that you will be able to skip all of the other steps and go straight to a final hearing.