Court’s Timeline for a Divorce: Complaint Answer No Answer filed Scheduling /Settlement Conference PL Hearing Settlement Conference Trial
The action starts with the filing of a Complaint. Once the Complaint is filed, the court will issue a Writ of
Summons, which usually takes about 2-3 days. The Complaint and Writ of Summons must be served upon the Defendant.
Once the Complaint and Writ of Summons are served upon the Defendant, the Defendant has 30 days in which to file an Answer unless the Defendant lives out of State, in which case an Answer is due within 60 days.
If No Answer Filed
If no timely answer is filed, the court will not automatically do anything and the Plaintiff or moving party must file a Request for Order of Default to get the case moving through the court system again.
Once the Answer is filed or a Request for Order of Default is entered, the court will next schedule a Settlement/Scheduling Conference. This Conference is the first opportunity for the parties to place a settlement on the record. If not settled, the court simply schedules out much of the rest of the case. Are the parties going to be required to go to parenting classes, mediation, is a custody evaluation required or a home study, is a PL Hearing needed, etc… and the court simply schedules these items out as well as listing discovery deadlines and other events.
A PL Hearing stands for Pendente Lite Hearing, which is the Latin term for Temporary, in which all temporary issues such as child custody and support and or temporary alimony are decided. If the PL Hearing is waived, the parties go straight to a Settlement Conference.
A settlement conference is an opportunity for the parties to settle their differences and receive a divorce without a lengthy trial. Settlement Conferences are conducted in front of a Judge although they are much less formal than a trial. The Judge will listen to both sides and see if any issues can be resolved before trial and if so what testimony is needed. If an agreement is reached the Judge will record everything, including any testimony needed and the parties can avoid the emotional and financial burdens of a trial. If no settlement or only a partial settlement is reached, the court will select a date for trial, which is supposed to be within 60 days from the date of the Settlement Conference.