If your case has been resolved through negotiation, either in the collaborative process, outside of court with attorneys, in mediation, you do not need to appear in court. In fact, many of my clients do not even set foot in the courthouse. On the other hand, if the parties are unable to reach an agreement on all the issues, and the assistance of a judge is required, then you will need to go to court to have a judge assigned to help you resolve the issues in your matter.
What happens if I do go to court?
If the issues in your divorce are resolved through negotiation, you will not have to appear in Court. A judge is involved only when you and your spouse cannot resolve matters yourselves or with the assistance of attorneys. If you find yourself headed to Court for your divorce, there are some things to keep in mind.
A judge gets involved in your case when a party files an RJI, a Request for Judicial Intervention. This gets a Judge appointed and, absent an emergency application, and a Preliminary Conference Order is sent out, which schedules the first conference. The Order also directs that, a week before the conference, the parties exchange information, including Statements of Net Worth and a Statement of Proposed Disposition, which lists what both parties hope to get out of their divorce.
What happens on the first conference depends largely upon the judge assigned to your case. Some judges hold their conferences in open court. Others conduct their preliminary conferences behind closed doors with just the attorneys and the clients sit in the hallway, perhaps seeing the judge at the end of the conference. Your attorney will fill you in on what happened in the conference with the judge, explaining the topics of discussion and the responses of the Judge. If there are children involved, the Judge will likely appoint an Attorney for the Children. Often, you’ll get a scheduling order directing the exchange of information to help the case move along and scheduling additional court conferences. Depending on the judge and the issues in your case, there will likely be a number of these meetings where the judge monitors the progress of the case and attempts to help resolve the issues. If the parties are unable to reach a negotiated agreement, there will be an evidentiary trial where you will testify, other evidence will be presented and the judge will determine the unresolved issues.
Please reach out to me if you would like to discuss how a judge might view your situation.