How Do Family Courts Work?
As the name implies, family courts have a jurisdiction that’s limited to family law issues, such as divorce, child custody, and domestic abuse. That being said, if you plan to visit a family court in the near future, then you should know how these courts work and what to expect. While only 5% of divorce cases are settled in court, many other former partners may still have to deal with a family court at some point.
What to Expect Once Inside the Court
The first thing you should do when you walk into a family court is to drop by the information booth, where you are bound to find someone who will point you in the right direction.
That being said, it wouldn’t hurt to know the main employees you can expect to find at a family court. They include the following:
- The court clerk is the individual responsible for filing any document submitted to the court. Additionally, the court clerk has access to earlier case records, which he or she can give you in return for a fee.
- Judicial officers are the people sitting behind the bench who make the final decisions in the court cases.
- The courtroom clerk helps the judge stay on top of the cases by managing the court records and offering other administrative support when needed.
- A marshal is the individual responsible for the court’s security.
- A court interpreter is responsible for helping parties who aren’t fluent in English to communicate with the court and to understand everything that is going on.
The Main Steps Of a Family Court Case
Those who really want to understand the process could visit a courtroom and watch an actual case as it plays out. If you know that a specific judge will be presiding over your case, then you might want to sit in on one of his or her cases. You’ll then see how the judge operates and get a better feel of what to expect when it’s your turn in front of the bench.
Bearing this in mind, here is a rudimentary breakdown of what you can expect to unfold during a family court case:
- Opening a case: The first step involves a plaintiff filing papers in order to start the legal process. After this, the other party will get served.
- Responding to the case: Upon being served, the other party, also referred to as the defendant, responds to the case by filing legal papers of its own.
- Case management conference: After the defendant responds to the case, the court judge will set a hearing date about 90 days after the response.
- Mediation/settlement: In most cases, the family court judge will attempt to encourage both parties to resolve their dispute out of court if that is a feasible option. The judge may refer both parties to one of several different settlement programs, such as the family mediation center.
- Motion practice: Seeing as reaching a final order from the court can take a while, the judge may have to issue a temporary order to get things moving until a final decision is made.
- Discovery: While the case is going on, both parties get the opportunity to exchange information with each other during a process known as discovery.
- Trial: In the event of both parties being unable to reach a full agreement, the judge will have to set a trial and take matters into his or her own hands. During the trial, each party tries to make its case by presenting evidence and witnesses. After this, the judge will make a decision. Obviously, if your case goes to trial, you might want to look into getting the best family lawyer.
- Post-trial: Once the trial is over, either party has the right to appeal the judge’s decision should they be unhappy with the outcome.
Throughout the entire process, things are bound to get emotional. This is why you may be better off getting the best family lawyer to represent you. If you are considering heading to family court for any reason, contact the Law Office of Kelly Berton Rocco in Hackensack, New Jersey. You can call us at 201-343-0078 for a free 30-minute phone consultation.