Adding Third Parties Into a Divorce Proceeding

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A divorce proceeding can be complex enough. Where parties do not agree on one or more matters, it can turn a divorce into a contested legal proceeding. Whether the differences be on child custody, child support, spousal support, property and debt division or any other issue, if there is not a complete agreement, a judge often has to resolve the dispute after a trial.

However, in some cases, matters may even be more complex. For example, in some cases, third parties may need to be added to the divorce itself for jurisdictional purposes. In addition, third parties can hire legal counsel, call witnesses and present evidence at trial. Thus, the dispute between the two parties to the marriage can become broader and complex.

When Are Third Parties Necessary?

Many are confused at the notion of a third party being added to a divorce proceeding. But in some cases, the third parties have to be added to ensure the court has jurisdiction to address all relevant issues. Without their addition, the court lack may lack jurisdiction to address essential matters regarding property and debt division and child custody.

Below are some examples of times where third parties are necessary:

Third Party Fathers: When children are born of the marriage or a pregnancy, there is a presumption that the husband is the father of that child. However, in some cases, that is in dispute or not true. It might be alleged that the wife had an extramarital affair and that another individual is the father of the child. In those cases, the actual father of the child will need to be added to the divorce if it is proven that the husband is not the father through a DNA test. By adding the natural father, the court can divorce the parties, make a finding that the husband is not the father and can name the third party as father of the child for custody and support purposes.

Trust Assets: In some marriages, there are trust assets that can come into the dispute as to marital property and debt division. The exact type of trust can vary. However, many of these trusts can be irrevocable trusts where neither party to the divorce is a trustee. Yet, one party to the divorce argues that trust assets or income is marital property in some regard. When this is the case, the trustee of the trust often needs to be added as a third party to the divorce for matters relating to the trust in the divorce resolution.

Jointly Held Property: Parties who are divorcing can sometimes hold property jointly with other third parties who are not their spouse. For example, it could be real estate, vehicles, bank or investment accounts and various assets. Sometimes, this is done innocently. But in other cases, the property is jointly held in an attempt at shielding it from the divorce court. When one spouse alleges that the jointly held property is martial property, the third party who holds title to this property often needs to be added into the divorce as a third party. Otherwise, the court would have no jurisdiction to order this third property to do anything relative to this jointly held property.

Business Interests: If a business interest is at issue in a divorce, the business or corporation may need to be added to this litigation as well. Adding the business or corporation into the litigation as a third party gives the court jurisdiction over the entity. It also gives the entity the ability to defend their interests. Adding a third party entity into litigation is often more important where there are other owners besides the divorcing parties.

The above examples are not all of the instances where a third party may need to be added into a divorce. But these are some of the more common examples.

What Happens When A Third Party is Joined?

When a third party is joined, the third party generally has a right to file legal pleadings and motions to protect their interests. These third parties may also opt to issue discovery, take depositions, call and examine witnesses and president evidence at trial.

Thus, the addition of a third party can delay the divorce proceedings in certain respects. It might also make the litigation more complex and costly. At the same time, the addition of third parties is sometimes a necessity.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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