A divorce case is started with the filing of a petition for dissolution of marriage; in paternity cases, it is started with the filing of a petition for parentage. At the time of filing the initial petition, the case is assigned to a specific courtroom and judge. Thereafter, the case will generally be set for a pre-trial or status conference court date, at which the judge will consider what issues can be agreed upon, whether financial information has been filed with the court (i.e., Financial Statements, etc.), whether discovery has been exchanged, whether depositions of the parties needs to be taken, whether a mediator or guardian ad litem (GAL) must be appointed, and various other administrative tasks associated with preparing the case for trial. Frequently, multiple pre-trials are necessary, either because one or both of the parties have not complied with discovery requests, or because one of the parties raises additional issues. Only when the case is completely ready for trial, will a trial date be set.
A hearing on temporary issues, or temporary relief may be requested by either party, in order to obtain more immediate relief, pending a final hearing after all formal discovery has been completed. Typically, a party wants temporary custody, temporary child support, temporary maintenance, or even temporary attorney fees. Although the judge will commonly hear evidence at the temporary hearing, it will be a short hearing (usually no more than one hour long), and the judge will only have time to hear 'the highlights' of what is important to determine custody, child support, etc., on a temporary basis. More extensive hearings are reserved for the final hearing. Lastly, although by statute, temporary custody, child support, and maintenance are not prejudicial to the judge's determination of custody, child support, and maintenance at final hearing, the temporary order lays the groundwork for the court to decide those issues on a permanent basis, and are thus, important for long-term relief.
The completion of discovery is a critical part of the process. Through discovery, the parties provide all the necessary information, documents, and materials in order for the parties to be prepared for trial. Discovery is only avoided in those cases in which there is an agreement up front on ALL issues, AND each party is completely convinced that they know all the relevant facts and information necessary to come to such an agreement.
At your first appointment with Dan, which will be lengthy, he will thoroughly review all the facts necessary in order to not only prepare the pleadings but to also advise you of the various tasks you must perform, as well as prepare the necessary discovery requests. In some cases, immediate action is required and a petition will be drafted at that time in order to prevent substantial prejudice to you, as the client.
As the case progresses and upon the receipt of discovery, you will be called back in for follow-up interviews in order to further develop matters that surface, affecting your case. A case involving family law inherently changes as the case progresses, and we will discuss how to make the most advantage out of that progression.