In practicing litigation, I have often times noticed that clients are not aware of the potential that is out there for their case to get dismissed either by a party or by the court. While the risk is decreased when there is heavy action on a case, it is still there and should be recognized by both an attorney and his or her client.
When a case is filed, usually the court is going to require some action be taken on it within a certain period of time. The periods of time can vary, but in courts with a heavier docket, the time period can be shorter to help keep up with the caseload in that particular court. The court is typically going to set a dismissal for want of prosecution date, or “DWOP” date for short, at which time a case will be dismissed if it has not either been finalized or set for trial. This is essentially to help work cases to resolution in a particular court by letting the attorneys and parties know that they need to obtain an end result to their case by a certain time.
At the actual dismissal hearing, the parties will need to show up to the court and set the case for trial. Some courts require that a scheduling order be presented for signature at this dismissal hearing. A scheduling order lays out all of the deadlines for discovery and trial that each party will need to follow in finalizing their case. If a party does not show up to the dismissal hearing, then either their pleadings or the entire case can become dismissed.
Parties sometimes choose to voluntarily dismiss their case with one another. This can be accomplished through what is called a notice of nonsuit. Usually, the petitioner is going to file this notice. The nonsuit will not have to be agreed to by the respondent as long as the respondent has not filed any affirmative pleadings, such as a counterclaim for example. If there are affirmative pleadings, then a joint notice of nonsuit will need to be signed by both parties and filed with the court. A nonsuit of a case effectively ends the case but leaves open the possibility to file it later should one of the parties change their mind.
These are some of the more common examples of how a case can become dismissed in the family law arena. Other ways include filing to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction or lack of standing. If you currently have a family law case, taking note of a dismissal date and its effect on your case will be important in ultimately reaching a final resolution to your case. While it may not ultimately result in your case being dismissed, it can act as an impetus to help reach a conclusion to your case.