One of the most common questions I receive in family law consults is “How long is a case like this going to take” and the answer that I have to give every client is that it just depends. Unfortunately, this is the nature of family law cases in that the length of your case depends upon everyone’s calendars (yours, the other party’s, the attorneys’ and the court’s calendar), the facts, the issues, and the steps that may arise in your case. This is one of highest concerns among my family law clients because they do not want to have their case drag on for months or even years. I completely understand wanting the case to be finalized as quickly as possible, but it is just not something that is doable due to the circumstances that these fact-driven cases present. Many people also do not realize there is not a way that we can speed up a case at all and if there is a way, it is very costly. Therefore, once in the trenches, people typically opt to go with the flow so that they can hopefully achieve the results they are seeking to achieve.
One of the most prominent reasons that a case involving child custody can last long is because the Court or one of the parties requests a social study. A social study is where a social worker investigates both parties, their respective homes and backgrounds, does reference checks, etc. in order to render an expert opinion for the court as which parent the child should primarily reside with and the visitation the other parent should receive. I have had several cases where a social study took up to 9 months to complete. Also, once a social study is completed and if new evidence arises after the social study is completed, a party can request a supplemental social study to be completed.
Even if you do not have a case involving child custody issues, in general, family law cases contain several steps that parties must complete before a case can be finalized. Typically, you have an interim temporary orders hearing to set the status quo of the case and then other steps can be ordered at that time such as counseling, appraisal for property, drug tests, psychological examinations, mediations, pretrial conferences, depositions, etc. Also, both parties will want to complete discovery in order to learn about each other’s cases and gather information/evidence as to the issues. All of this can be very time consuming. Also, and quite common, the other party may be doing everything within their power to drag out the case and it may all be within the limits to where sanctions cannot be requested. We have had several instances of people just not wanting a divorce and so there are several temporary orders hearings scheduled and many different steps that must occur before a final trial can be scheduled.
Therefore, while it can be frustrating it is important to understand that you are not alone in this and many people experience a long process in their cases. So, while it may seem as though your case should not be taking as long as it is understand that it is not typically the attorney’s fault. At Guest & Gray, we work to ensure efficiency however sometimes some things cannot be avoided. If you are facing a family law dilemma, contact our firm today to schedule your consultation.