A Court can make decisions regarding divorce, parenting of children, child support, spousal support, property division, restraining orders, preservation of property, division of a pension or the possession/sale of a matrimonial home. These are the broad categories of issues decided in Court, although there are many other issues beyond the scope of this brief article.
The main stages of litigation are Pleadings, Case Conferences, Motions for Temporary Orders, Settlement Conferences, Trial Management Conferences and Trial. At each stage of a proceeding parties are required to prepare and file paperwork, which may include conference briefs, affidavits and financial documents. There is an ongoing obligation for each party to update and correct financial disclosure.
At the decision-making stages (motions and trials), there are fewer opportunities to be creative. Judges are limited to relevant statutes and previous judicial decisions. At Conferences, however, Judges may provide their views, attempt to narrow issues and suggest alternatives to help settle part of or an entire case.
Before going to Court, both parties prepare documents setting out the Orders requested and the background facts relied upon. The party starting the case files an Application and the other party responds with an Answer.
After filing the Application and Answer, the first court appearance scheduled will be a Case Conference. The Case Conference is a less formal opportunity to meet with a Judge, obtain additional disclosure and explore settlement options.