Litigation is the term used to describe the process parties go through when they utilize the court system as the means of resolving their dispute. When parties cannot resolve the issues in their case by way of agreement, the parties can engage in the litigation process.
In order to initiate the litigation process, one party must file a complaint with the court. The other party must file an answer to the complaint with the court. The court then schedules various hearings and deadlines by which the parties must complete certain tasks in the case in order to get ready for the ultimate trial which will decide the issue in dispute.
Depending on the issues in a particular case, the litigation process may include a scheduling hearing, preparing and filing a financial statement, serving and responding to discovery (disclosure of evidence), depositions of the parties and third party witnesses, designation of experts, a pendente lite hearing to determine and put in a place an order governing temporary issues in a given case (for example child access, support and attorney’s fees), and the preparation of a pre-trial statement and/or a statement of marital property.
In many cases, the court may also order mediation of custody and financial matters.
The litigation process culminates with a trial on the disputed issues. The trial provides the parties with an opportunity to present their arguments and evidence to a judge who then makes a determination about the issues in dispute and enters an order which resolves that dispute.
The litigation process takes time and can be costly; however, contested litigation is a viable tool for the effective resolution of issues when the parties cannot resolve issues by any other means.