Why Does Court Take So Long?

It’s no secret that cases take a long time to go through court, especially if you are the person who is asking the court to do something, like order support to be paid. In a nutshell, there are too few judges, a problem that is compounded by the scheduling of judges and attorneys. Our state is burdened with many more cases than available judges to hear them. There are ongoing cuts in the judicial system’s budget. Beyond that, family law cases such as child custody, child support, alimony and equitable distribution take time to prepare. There are numerous “housekeeping” events scheduled around the actual cases, requiring thirty minutes or an hour.

Only a small number of cases actually reach the courtroom, but the cases that do can take a long time to be presented.  A custody case or equitable distribution case may take a week or longer in court if there are numerous witness or exhibits.  Real life also slows down the process, such as someone being ill that day or the air conditioning in the courthouse breaking down in July.

Cases that settle “on the courthouse steps” at the last-minute might be scheduled for three days, all of which may be wasted if there aren’t any cases that can be heard quickly with last-minute notice.  Even if a client can get there on short notice, trying to fill the court time left available is hard because of judge and attorney schedules. Certain judges have to hear certain cases, and some cases require a judge from another county because a litigant is an attorney or courthouse employee or regular witness such as a social worker or police officer. Emergency cases in family court, such as emergency custody, require the schedules to be further adjusted.

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