In a relationship or marriage, things don’t always work out the way we want it sometimes. Things would be simple if it was just the two people and the only thing to separate is each other and never look back. However, the reality is that you have children, property and other assets that need to be sorted in the best amicable way. Its easier said and done and what most people don’t realize is that there is a long road ahead if an agreement cannot be made and the courts have to be involved. So how do you prepare yourself for family court, whether it be divorce, custody or equitable distribution? You start with having realistic expectations about the court process and this information can help.
Lawyer – You should not do this alone. I always advise those going through this process to get a lawyer. There are so many layers from beginning to end. There are filings, deadlines to those filings, specific days in which the court can hear the cases and local court rules that an attorney in that area will know. This is not something that you want to do on your own and learn as you go.
Time - It never fails, when a client comes in for a consultation the first thing they say is I want this to be taken care of as soon as possible. Unfortunately, this isn’t a “soon as possible “process if you are choosing to go through the family process. It starts with initial filings. Meaning that one party has to file he complaint to even get it in court. From there the other party must be served. And if the other party is cooperative and gets served in a timely manner, they have a certain amount of days (30) to respond and then the process continues. I say all this to say DO NOT expect this to be over as “soon as possible”. There are multiple steps that must be taken. And you must account for things not going smoothly. Perhaps there’s a delay in the clerk’s office with the filing, service is delayed due to the other party’s uncooperativeness, it can be a number of things. But time wise this is what happens.
Court Appearance- TV gives us a very a false reality into the process when it is necessary that the courts get involved. People believe that you have a court date immediately after you decide to meet with a lawyer and file these actions. It doesn’t work like that; as I explained before it’s a process. SO now you have a court date and you arrive at court and believe that this is your court and the judge is solely here for your matter. THAT is a false reality. Your matter is one of many on court docket. So it is important to note this and be very patient; it may be a long day. Also, as I stated in reference to time, you matter may not be resolved on that day. There may be preliminary motions, the other party may not have counsel and is given time to obtain a lawyer, the lawyer ma have just gotten retained that day, or attorneys could be working on some type of negotiations to settle, all of these are possibilities. Your case could be continued multiple times. This is something that most people do not prepare for but it’s the real reality of the court process.
Money- One thing that people are most realistic about is the monetary side of the court process. From court fees, to service fees, to lawyer fees. I believe the most expensive part of the process are your lawyers fees. Unfortunately, in the Family Law sector there is no such thing as court appointed counsel. Now while I advocate strongly to get a lawyer I am also realistic that it could get expensive. So, when the thought is even coming along that the legal process is going to be the best avenue for your situation you must be prepared financially. I’ve seen lawyer feels ranging from $500 to $5,000 + depending on the complexity of your matter. Expect for there to be a fee to secure representation and for the attorney to bill you along the way at an hourly rate.
There is so much more to the process that would take hours to explain in this forum. What I have shared is brief analysis of the process so that those who are thinking about going this route can have general expectations. With these key pointers you will be able to prepare yourself mentally and financially, so you can easily distinguish in y\our mind what is Real Court Vs. Reality Court.
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