Family Law is a broad term used for any type of case that involves legal proceedings that impact a family. This can include divorce, legal separation, paternity, custody, parenting time, child support and Orders for Protection. Family structures can vary between parents with children, unmarried parents with children, same-sex couples with or without children, or third-parties such as grandparents or extended family caring for children. Dan and Traci strive to resolve all of their cases outside of a courtroom through mediation, Early Neutral Evaluation processes, parenting consulting or parenting time expeditors. In many cases, however, parties are not successful through these other forms of conflict resolution. When that is the situation, cases need to progress through the court system, a process called “litigation.” Both Traci and Dan have extensive litigation experience.
Discovery is often a starting point in family law cases. Through this process, parties are able to "discover" the other party’s assets and debts, as well as their income and budgets/expenses by asking and answering questions and exchanging relevant documents. Gathering this information at the beginning helps outline the items that have to be addressed as a part of the process.
If it is necessary for the parties to go to court to work toward resolution of their issues, the process typically starts with an Initial Case Management Conference or “ICMC.” This session is just what the name suggests – it is a meet and greet with your assigned judicial officer to decide how to manage your case. With few exceptions, the Court requires the parties to participate in some form of alternative dispute resolution.
If mediation has been unsuccessful or is not otherwise appropriate, the parties will often ask the court to decided contested issues they cannot resolve on their own. These are called motion hearings where parties can ask for decisions on temporary or immediate issues like parenting time or financial support or more permanent issues such as modifying custody, parenting time or child support or spousal maintenance. Often times the outcome of a motion hearing can help the parties reach settlement since it provides insight into the judicial officer’s thinking process as it relates to their facts.
Family Law Trials are uncommon, but in cases where all other efforts to settle the case have failed, they can be necessary. The process of preparing for a trial is extensive and expensive. Witnesses and exhibits need to be prepared. Legal arguments have to be researched and written. Trial can be a half day or multiple days, depending on the complexity of the issues. Both Dan and Traci have tried cases throughout the metro area counties and are adept at putting the client’s case before the judge in the manner most favorable to their client.