One of the most frequent questions clients ask me is: “How long will it take?”
This is never an easy question to respond to and I tend to say: “It depends.”
While this may seem to be unhelpful, it is the only answer I can give until I know a little more. This is true of most family cases (involving divorce, children or finances).
If you are at the start of your journey and need the courts’ help to resolve one or more issues, it is likely to take (much) longer than if you are part way through the process and have, for example, reached an agreement with the other side.
As a rule of thumb, the more acrimonious the case or the more hearings you have to attend, the longer it will take overall.
Why does it take so long?
There are many other factors that can add to the time it will take for you to reach the end of your family case.
Some of these include:
- the availability of judges to hear cases
- the availability of a particular judge (if your case is reserved to that judge)
- administrative processes within the court
- problems with court diary bookings systems
- adjourned hearings
- waiting for legal aid funding
- waiting for expert reports to be submitted to the court
- waiting for medical information – e.g. from GPs or other healthcare practitioners
- attending additional hearings – e.g. fact-finding hearings to hear evidence of allegations
- failure to comply with court orders/deadlines
- incomplete paperwork
- the wrong forms being used
- forms that have been filled in incorrectly
- delayed payment or non-payment of court fees and/or legal fees
- a failure to disclose information – e.g. financial details
While some of the delays may be beyond your control, there are a number of steps you can take to help speed things up and prevent any further unnecessary delays.
How to reduce delays in your case
Here are 10 ways you can help to move your case along:
- Complete your court forms carefully and follow the guidance and instructions fully.
- Prepare your paperwork with due care.
- Always turn up for your hearing. If for any reason you can not attend, request an adjournment; giving the court as much notice as possible before the court date (the other side may have to agree to this).
- Chase practitioners for any specialist reports you need for your hearing – e.g. GP letters.
- Send your paperwork to the court and the other side by the deadline.
- Take extra copies of your court bundle with you to your hearing(s).
- Avoid doing anything that could put you in contempt of court during your hearing, such as arguing or not following instructions.
- Follow up with the court a week or two after your hearing if you have not received a copy of the court order.
- Stay in contact with the court – e.g. to check that a referral has taken place when it is supposed to.
- If you intend to go to court with a McKenzie Friend, inform the court and the other side and let them know the name of the McKenzie Friend.
Copyright © Going to Court Alone – Debbie Thomas