child-supportWhen the parties are unable to resolve their dispute by alternative means such as negotiated settlement, mediation, or collaborative family law meetings, it is necessary to proceed with litigation. This is an adversarial proceeding where attorneys generally represent each party, and a judge makes the ultimate decision. litigation

Litigation involves the filing of a Complaint with the Court for relief sought. Issues most often included in a family law complaint are child custody, child support, post-separation support, alimony, and/or distribution of marital property (equitable distribution). Once a Complaint is filed the parties are subject to the rules of the Court, both local rules and state civil procedure. These rules govern the amount of time that a party is allowed to respond to a Complaint, what documents are to accompany the filing of a Complaint and other Court filings. Also, when there is a claim for property distribution, the parties are required to have several pre-trial conferences to develop a schedule for the litigation process and to outline the disputed issues for the Judge.

Part of the litigation proceedings is “discovery”: the method by which attorneys gain information to present evidence at trial. Discovery often includes both the request for the production of important documents, as well as interrogatories, which request pertinent information by written questions. Depositions may be taken of the parties or witnesses. During a deposition, a party answers questions under oath and in the presence of a court reporter who prepares a transcript.

The litigation process may involve temporary hearings for support or custody, and motions related to the discovery process or other pre-trial matters, as well as the ultimate trial. Also, there may be separate trials on different issues, such as custody, spousal support, and property distribution. This process can take several months to several years until conclusion, depending upon the complexity of the issues involved and the amount of contention between the parties. Once the trial is held, the Judge will enter an Order resolving all issues. The parties are bound to follow the Court’s Order and their failure to comply is punishable by the Court.

Litigation Basics

number
location
time
goal
Two Attorneys – each party is represented by his or her lawyer.
Courtroom
Process takes several months to several years, depending on complexity of issues.
Ultimate decision made by a judge