The Trial Process

While each case is different, the usual case that becomes a lawsuit involving marital property, custody and child support, and perhaps alimony, takes about a year if it is tried in court. At least, that is the goal of family court. There are several phases of litigation.

In North Carolina, a document called a complaint generates the lawsuit. Once it is filed and served on the other party, he or she will generally a fixed number of days to file an answer and any counterclaims.  The party who filed the complaint will then file a reply to the counterclaims.

The court requires child custody mediation in all custody cases, which often leads to a custody agreement. If they are unable to reach an agreement, the case proceeds to court. Court hearings for temporary matters, such as temporary child support, are usually scheduled for a date that falls 2 or 3 months after the date the complaint is filed.

Next is family financial mediation, which the court requires before any hearings on permanent relief are scheduled to be tried by a judge in the courtroom. If the case is not resolved by mediation, there are many strategic things that can take time, such as depositions, appraisals and discovery. The trial itself will often take several days, and after that, the entry of the order may take a month or two.

If a case is not settled by child custody mediation and/or family financial mediation, the case proceeds to court. Unlike mediation where the parties control what they will or will not do to settle their case, the judge will be the decision-maker.  After a trial, the judge will sign a court order that must be followed, Failure to follow the court order can result in a finding of contempt (payment of a fine or attorney’s fees or even incarceration).

See Frequently Used Legal Terms

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