Family Law Litigation
In many family law matters, the parties do not agree on how to resolve some or all of the issues. This means they may end up going to court to ask a judge to resolve your family law matter. The process of preparing for trial and trying the case before the Court is litigation.
The litigation process begins when one party (the Plaintiff, or Petitioner) files their complaint or petition with the Court and serves that complaint or petition on the other party (the Defendant or Respondent). The complaint or petition will include a statement of the (Plaintiff's version) facts upon which the Plaintiff/Respondent is basing the relief they are seeking from the Court. In family law, "relief" takes the form of asking the Court to grant a divorce, divide the assets and liabilities of the marital estate, determine child custody and parenting issues, award alimony and attorney fees, and other actions the Court may deem appropriate given the facts of the case.
After service of the complaint or petition, the Defendant/Respondent will file an answer and perhaps a counter-complaint or counter-petition seeking their own relief. The case may be negotiated informally by lawyers for both parties, or the parties themselves, resulting in a consent agreement, or the case may be resolved through mediation. Until or unless the case is resolved by agreement between the parties, the possibility of going to court will remain a possibility. This means that if you are involved in a litigated family law matter, you and your attorney will be constantly preparing for the case to go to trial.
Preparing the case for trial will involve some or all of the following: collection of evidence, witness statements, serving and responding to discovery requests, and taking depositions. Throughout the process, it is highly likely that numerous telephone calls and letters will be exchanged between the lawyers, motions will be drafted and filed, and the lawyers will go to court to argue those motions. Obviously, this is an incredibly stressful and expensive way to resolve a family law matter.
The costs of litigation in family law are limited only by the acrimony of the parties and their willingness to fund the fight by paying the lawyers. Even after trial, either party may initiate an appeal, and domestic cases often involve post-divorce litigation when the parties are unable or unwilling to co-parent and modifications to the parenting plan are necessary. Sometimes one party or the other will refuse to obey the court's order and actions for contempt will ensue.