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Many family law clients ask how long their case will last when they first come to their attorney for a consultation. While a primary concern can be the cost of the litigation, a lengthened proceeding can also wear at a party over the course of time. There is no quick response to this question.

First, the opposing party will have to be served with the petition. At this point, the other party can either answer or not answer the lawsuit. If they don’t answer, a default judgment can be taken in typically 30-60 days. If they do answer, then the filing attorney will need to contact the other party’s attorney to discuss a possible settlement.

When the attorneys negotiate a settlement, a case can last a few months. If the case becomes contested because of lack of agreement, then a hearing will need to be set in front of the judge to determine the disputed issues in the case.

Just because you have gone to an initially contested hearing in court with your attorney does not mean it will be the only hearing. The court usually sets temporary orders hearing. The temporary orders hearing is the first hearing to determine the orders that will be in place while a case is pending. This interim period allows the parties to conduct discovery from one another on things like case history and planned claims and defenses.

If a case is contested, there will likely be other hearings after the temporary orders hearing which can prolong the case. These can go on for several months until the court sets a dismissal hearing and asks that the parties set the case for the final trial. The trial will typically be set 3-6 months after the dismissal hearing is had.

All in all, a contested case can take over a year to be completed with all pre-trial hearings, motions, and discovery. The case is more likely to last for a long period if the parties cannot agree on the contested issues in a case. It can be financially beneficial for the parties to resolve their case quickly. Some cases are complicated with many issues and moving parts. Complicated cases will resolve on the party's time as well as the court’s time.