What is a Divorce Hearing Officer?

A Divorce Hearing Officer is an attorney with experience in family law who has been appointed by the Court of Common Pleas to conduct the proceedings in a contested divorce action. The Divorce Hearing Officer will meet with the attorneys and the parties before a hearing is scheduled in order to identify the contested issues (which could include any or all of the following: fault divorce, two-year separation, irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, division of property, temporary alimony pending the litigation, alimony after the divorce, counsel fees, costs, or expenses). The Divorce Hearing Officer will help the attorneys and the parties obtain the information necessary to resolve these issues (called "discovery"). This will help eliminate some of the disagreements and may enable the parties to resolve their issues through negotiation. The Divorce Hearing Officer will then conduct the hearing with respect to issues that cannot be resolved between the parties. This hearing will be conducted with the same formality as if it were being conducted by a Judge. After the hearing, the Divorce Hearing Officer will then write a formal report to the Court, recommending a resolution for these issues. If either party disagrees with the recommendation, he or she can ask a Judge to review it for errors by filing "exceptions." If the Judge finds errors in the Divorce Hearing Officer's Report, then the Judge may adopt a final order that differs from the Report. If exceptions are filed, the Judge will review the entire report, not just the parts addressed in the exceptions.

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1. What is a Divorce Hearing Officer?
2. How should I dress in court?
3. How should I act in court?
4. Do I need an attorney?
5. What if I don't have an attorney?
6. What if I can't afford an attorney?
7. How can I check on the status of my case?
8. If I have something I want to tell a judge or a divorce hearing officer, should I call them or write them a letter?