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Steps in a Litigated Divorce
At the motion, which is a formal court appearance, the family law judge will listen to your legal arguments, your spouseís legal arguments, and then make a decision on the issue.
Except in the case of an emergency, a family law motion canít be brought before a case conference. An emergency means just that - for instance, violence or abduction of children. A motion canít be brought before a case conference just because youíre in a hurry to get things done.
The documents necessary for a family law motion are a notice of motion and an affidavit. The notice of motion is a document that lets the court know what order you are seeking. The affidavit is your sworn evidence under oath that tells your story and why you are entitled to the order you are seeking.
Before your case can be completed, there is a lengthy and often expensive process known as discovery. In this process, you and your spouse exchange information. This serves two purposes. First, you are building your case. Second, you are learning your spouseís case, so that you can find out the weaknesses in your spouseís case.
Towards the end of the discovery process, there normally are out of court examinations, called either questioning or an examination for discovery. These are examinations of each party by the other, held under oath. The purpose is to narrow the issues between the parties, to test the strength of the other partyís case, to obtain full evidentiary disclosure and tactically, to test the other partyís presentation as a witness.
Settlement Conference (aka Pre-trial Conference)
After the case conference, motions and discovery are completed, a pre-trial conference or settlement conference is held. As the name suggests, this conference is designed to encourage the settlement of the case.
At the settlement or pre-trial conference, the judge listens to both partiesí arguments. A brief must be prepared and filed with the court beforehand. Based on the brief, and the arguments made at the conference, the judge will make recommendations as to how he would decide the case. This conference is usually a last attempt to avoid the time and expense of a trial.
A trial is a very formal procedure. In the interest of fairness, rules of evidence and procedure are strictly enforced. Witnesses testify before the judge, documentary evidence is presented in a particularly formal way and finally each side makes a closing statement.
At the conclusion of the trial the judge finally decides all the issues in your case.