Jeff Biddle 2013-09-19 00:36:38
Progression of a Family Law Case Jeff Biddle owns Biddle Law Firm, PLLC, a boutique firm that focuses on family law and consumer bankruptcy cases. Biddle received his B.S. in economics from the University of Utah in 1997 and a J.D. in 2005 from Emory University. He worked as a family law attorney before starting his own firm in 2007. As a child of divorce and a divorced father of four, Biddle helps families through the difficult process of divorce, working with parents in a broken family to discover solutions to the family problems without resorting to litigation if possible. www.BiddleFamilyLaw.com T: (480) 840-3138. “What can I expect in my case?” This is one of the most common questions from those unfamiliar with family law proceedings. Other than explaining the legal aspects of their specific case, they are really asking what is going to happen. This article will explain the progression of a typical divorce case. Initial Filing Many people are curious if it matters who files first. Most of the time it does not, but there are times when rushing to the courthouse to be the first to file does make a difference. If the litigants live far from the attorney, it makes sense to file through your attorney so that the case can be assigned to the courthouse closest to your attorney, which will reduce the cost of your case slightly. Also, if there are emergent circumstances, like a need for emergency temporary orders for parenting time or support, you should definitely not wait to file. Resolution Management Conference Once the other party has responded, the court will likely set a hearing called a resolution management conference (RMC). The court may also set an RMC if you request temporary orders. An RMC is simply a preliminary hearing that the court sets to get an initial impression of the case. Both sides to the case are ordered to meet and discuss the issues and attempt to negotiate. If there are any agreements, the court will enter those as orders. Otherwise, the court will set future hearings such as a temporary orders hearing, status conference, alternative dispute resolution (mediation), parenting conference and trial. No evidence or testimony is taken at an RMC. Temporary Orders Hearing If either party is seeking temporary orders, such as parenting time or support, the court will set a temporary orders hearing. At the temporary orders hearing, evidence will be taken by the court so your attorney should present documentary evidence like paycheck stubs, taxes, bank statements, police reports, etc. You should also be prepared to answer questions about your financial situation and why you should be given the relief that you are asking the court to grant you. The court may rule after hearing the case presented by both sides, but may also take the issues under advisement and give you a ruling at a later date. Keep in mind that these orders are only temporary and may be changed after the court hears the case at the final trial. If you and the other side agree, you can also agree to change the court’s orders by sending a stipulation to the judge to sign that indicates what the new orders should be. Status Conference Occasionally, when cases are more complicated or are taking longer than usual, the court will set a status conference to ensure that the case is still progressing. Most attorneys will request that the status conference take place telephonically and the litigants are not typically required to be present for a status conference. The court will discuss discovery and disclosure issues and may set future hearings in the matter but a status conference is usually just the judge’s way of making sure that the case is moving toward a final judgment. Alternative Dispute Resolution & Mediation If the court orders that the parties attend mediation, attorneys may or may not be allowed to attend. For mere mediation, the parties go before a mediator without their attorneys to attempt to narrow the issues or completely settle. The mediator will inform the court if the parties reach a full, partial or no settlement. No further information is given. Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is a type of mediation where the attorneys are present and work with their respective clients and the mediator to try to resolve some or all of the issues. If your attorney feels that mediation or ADR will be helpful, they will ask the court for it. Parenting Conference A parenting conference is similar to mediation; only the parents attend. The parents discuss issues related to the children such as legal decision making, parenting time and other parenting issues. Unlike mediation, if the parents do not reach an agreement, the parenting conference provider will issue a report and recommendations to the court, which are typically followed. Evidence may be presented at the parenting conference and children may be interviewed if the court has ordered child interviews or if the parenting conference provider feels that it is necessary. Evidentiary Hearing & Trial The trial is very similar to the temporary orders hearing with the exception that the parties are usually given more time to present their case and the scope is not limited to the issues that were presented at a temporary orders hearing. After hearing all of the testimony and considering the admitted evidence, the judge will typically take the case under consideration and enter a ruling.
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