Trying to guess how long a case will last is very difficult for attorneys. The answer depends so much on what the parties do. It also depends, to some extent on what the court does.
Most clients’ cases could be over with very quickly, but the client may not like the outcome. That’s because almost any case can be settled in a matter of days or less, if one side is willing to give the other everything he or she wants.
Although there are many uncertainties, there are a few things we know. In Texas, unless a waiver is obtained based upon Family Violence, a divorce must be on file for at least 60 days before the court can sign the final decree. The 60 day clock begins on the date of filing, not on the date of service or the date that the other party knows about the case.
While the 60 day waiting period is important, there is a great deal of misunderstanding about it.
The 60th day only matters if the parties have reached an agreement on all issues. If not, the 60th day just comes and goes and the court does not even pay attention to it.
In a Suit Affecting Parent-Child Relationship (a SAPCR), there is no waiting period. So for an original action between two parents that have never been married or a modification of custody or child support, the case can be filed and finalized in the same day, if the parties agree.
Every divorce and every SAPCR is a lawsuit. It may be the friendliest lawsuit in the world, or it may be the most acrimonious. Either way, it is going to end in only one of two ways: Settlement or Trial.
Some people say, “There’s no way we can settle.” And then, when asked about trial strategy, they say, “Oh, I don’t want a trial.” Unfortunately, those are the only two choices – Settlement or Trial.
If the case settles, whether it settles by negotiation, mediation, or some other way, it will end whenever the two sides come to an agreement. If the parties can’t settle, and the case goes to trial, it will end when the court is ready for it to.
Twenty or thirty years ago, in Texas’ big cities, it was fairly common for cases to last for years – sometimes four years, sometimes five, and sometimes longer than that.
Now, in 2016, cases tend to get resolved sooner. But to most people, still not in a fashion that they would consider fast. In smaller counties, sometimes the courts can set a case for trial more quickly than in larger counties. Sometimes, however, that’s not true, because the courts in the smaller counties are often handling family, criminal, and civil-non-family matters, while courts in the larger counties may only be handling family law matters.
In their “Rules of Judicial Administration – Updated With Amendments Effective March 22, 2016,” the Texas Supreme Court sets forth fairly short periods of time in which case should be resolved, “so far as reasonably possible.” The Court states, however, that “It is recognized that in especially complex cases or special circumstances it may not be possible to adhere to these standards.”
In reality, if not settled, a party to a family law case needs to count on the case lasting one to two years – maybe a little less, maybe more. Simply put, there are many things that can slow a case down, but very few that can speed it up…short of settlement.
If you would like to discuss the complexities or circumstances of your case with the attorneys of the Beal Law Firm, you can call us at 817.261.4333 or 214.414.0418 anytime, or write us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are on the web at www.dfwdivorce.com.