Most of my clients are shocked to learn how long it can take to have their case heard in court. Right now it can take four months or more to get into court on a short motion in Wake County family court. Many clients assume that it will take a week or two. Thus, they are discouraged and upset to learn that the court will not hear even simple matters quickly. However, collaborative law, mediation and other alternatives to the courthouse offer faster and more efficient resolutions of your matter.
Taking a case to court involves a lot of scheduling uncertainty and delays. Even when you get a court date for your matter, there is no guarantee that your case will be heard. Wake County family courts schedule cases for a particular week, not a particular day. Attorneys and clients appear in court on Monday mornings for a “calendar call.” This is a court session in which the judge in that particular court room hears from each attorney on each case and then determines which matters will be heard that week and when. It is not until sometime later on Monday morning that you will know if and when your matter will be heard.
It is very common for a judge to determine that she cannot hear all of the matters that have been set for that week. The cases that cannot be heard are “continued” until another court date. The next available court date is typically months down the road. The lower your case is on the calendar for a particular week, the more likely it is that your case will be continued.
Even if you or your attorney have thought ahead, and placed the matter on a calendar for a week in which you are very likely to be heard, things can go wrong. I recently arrived in court with a client on Monday morning ready to argue a case that was important and time sensitive. However, when we arrived we discovered that the judge had called in sick. Thus, our hearing was pushed back over two months. And there was nothing that we could do about it.
If your case involves complicated issues for trial, you can expect a long period of information gathering (“discovery” in legalese) and planning before your case is ready to be heard by a judge. That only adds to the delay in resolving your case.
In contrast, collaborative law and mediation frequently resolve cases much sooner than litigation in the courtroom. The information gathering necessary for Collaborative Law and mediation typically occurs much faster than the rigid pace of discovery. In Collaborative Law, the speed of the process is facilitated because both parties are dividing the workload by sharing the information gathering duties. And, the only scheduling variable is that of the parties and the attorneys. There are no overloaded court calendars to slow down the process.
Most people involved in a divorce or custody dispute want the process to end as quickly as possible. Long delays and rigid court schedules only prolong the emotional trauma and agony of a divorce. But alternative processes such as Collaborative Law and mediation save valuable time, money and emotional energy by providing faster, more efficient resolutions to family law issues.