When Should You File a Lawsuit?

Sep 24, 2009


I spend a lot of time telling people why they should not go to court in this blog.  That is because in most cases, going to court serves no one’s best interests.  However, sometimes going to court is the best way to deal with an issue.  While it is always best to consult an attorney before making a decision to file a lawsuit, the following situations may require court intervention:

1.  Domestic Violence:  If one party has been violent or has threatened violence against another party or a child, then negotiation may not be an option.  Sometimes domestic violence protective orders are negotiated and entered with the approval of both parties.  However, that only occurs AFTER a temporary protective order has been put in place.  When violence is an issue, there is no time to negotiate until everybody feels safe.

2.  Child Abuse:  If a child is being abused, then negotiation goes out of the window.  The child has to be protected no matter the cost.

3.  Child is in Serious Danger of Being Harmed:  Like child abuse, there is no time to wait in this situation. You need to seek an emergency custody order from the court to protect the child.

4.  Unilateral Financial Actions:  If one party has taken large amounts of money from a joint account, taken out a credit line using a marital asset as collateral, or otherwise taken unilateral actions with marital funds or property, then court action may be necessary.  In this situation, a temporary restraining order or an interim distribution of marital property may be necessary to protect one party from financial damage. Unilateral actions can be as blatant as hiding marital funds or as subtle as running up a joint credit card balance or equity line of credit.

5.  Addiction:  If one party has a drug, alcohol, gambling or other addiction, then court action may be required.  People with addictions can burn through marital financial resources very rapidly.  And once those resources have been spent to support an addiction, they are gone.  Further, addicts are less likely to be able to productively participate in a good faith negotiation.

6.  Parental Relocation:  In custody cases, when a parent moves far away from the child’s hometown, things can get complicated.  This typically occurs when the parents are sharing custody while they live in the same city, and then one parent needs to move far away.  This can happen for military, career or personal reasons.  But, when one parent needs to move out of town or out of state, sharing custody becomes much more difficult.  Typically, the parent that is moving wants the child to go with them, and the parent that is staying put wants the child to stay.  Since it is more difficult to split custody in these situations, these cases may require a neutral party to make a decision.  That being said, many of these cases can still be resolved without court intervention.

7.  Serious Denial of Access to Children:  When one parent denies the other access to the children, there may be no way to obtain that access without a court order.  Each case has to be evaluated to determine whether the degree of access being denied merits a lawsuit.  But, in serious cases the power of the court may be necessary to obtain access to the children.

These are some of the more common situations that cause cases to end up in court.  Since each case is unique, there are countless situations that may require court action.  But, if any of these situations are present in your case, then going to court should at least be seriously discussed with your attorney.


Please note that nothing on this blog should be considered legal advice and that viewing the information on this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between us. You are advised to consult with an attorney to confirm the current state of any legal information contained in this blog, as the law constantly changes.


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