Divorce Litigation Timeline--An Overview

Divorce “Litigation” is the bread and butter, standard practice.  It is often the only option divorcing spouses are aware of. 

               Notably, I am calling it “Litigation”, because the reality is that these cases are managed and overseen by the court system, but they are not being litigated because 95% (or more) of cases settle before trial.  While you can “litigate” your case via motion practice, the sad reality is that judges are often hesitant to make decisions—often referring the parties to mediation—or they make decisions which are subject to modification upon the final outcome of the case.  As a result, the efficacy and value of motion practice is often quite questionable.

Nonetheless, should you pursue Divorce Litigation, here is a general timeline of how your case will progress through the system:

·        Step 1:  Filing of Initial Pleadings (including Complaint, Answer & Counterclaim, and Answer to Counterclaim)—2 months

·        Step 2:  Initial Case Management Conference and Parenting Time Mediation—2 months

·        Step 3:  Filing of Case Information Statement and Completion of Discovery—4 months

·        Step 4:  Early Settlement Panel—1 month

·        Step 5:  Mandatory Economic Mediation—2 months

·        Step 6:  Intensive Settlement Panel—1 month

·        Step 7:  Trial—6-8 months

·        Step 8:  Trial Court Decision—2-4 months

Based upon these timelines, you will spend the first 4 months accomplishing very little of “value” towards resolving your case.  You will then spend an additional 4 months compiling financial information before the court mandates that you begin negotiating a settlement.  You are generally given 6 months to resolve your case before the Court schedules you for trial, at which point the process and timeline becomes difficult to predict, immensely expensive and extremely burdensome.

               All told, should you choose to litigate your case to the end, you can expect the process to take over 2 years and cost you over $100,000—not including the emotional cost.

David Cardamone