Thursday, October 30, 2014

Timing is Everything

Last post I wrote about how long the process can take.   Now I am going to talk about deadlines to do some of those things in the process.    Because if you miss a deadline, you can be out of luck.   SOL does not just stand for Statute of Limitations in the law.

Now, family law does not have any statute of limitations.   You pretty much can file for divorce any time after you separate.   Same with custody.   In Maryland, you have to ask for child support before the kids turn 18.   You also only get child support back to the date of filing, not the date of separation.   So if you wait 5 years after splitting up with the other parent to ask for child support, you are not getting 5 years of back child support.   But that is not a deadline, it's just a cut off for looking backwards.

Moving forwards, there are lots of deadlines in the process.

Once served you must file your Answer within 30 days.   If you don't file, the case can go forward without you.   You won't be heard by the judge, you won't be able to present evidence.   You won't get ask for anything for yourself.   Because you had the chance to get your issues on the record and the court presumes you chose not to do so by answering.

If you are asking the court to do something, you need to do that in a timely manner.   Usually the deadline to amend any pleadings where you ask for something is 30 days before trial.   However, there may be a different deadline in the scheduling order.   Also, if the trial gets continued out for a year or so and you wait until 30 days before the trial date, the court may not hear you on that issue.   You had plenty of time to file, why did you wait so long?    The other side is entitled to notice that something is at issue.   If you try to hide it so they can't counter, you only look bad to the court.  The court hates people who play games like that.

Maryland is a "you don't ask, you don't get" state.   If you want something ask for it as soon as possible.   Because you can't come back later and say "oh yeah, that swampland in Florida, I forgot that we needed to decide who gets it."   The court is going to say "sorry Charlie, too late, case over."  I actually had this come up recently.   Lady was divorced many years ago.   The pension was not addressed.   She wants her share now.   I hated telling her she couldn't do anything about it.   The case was long over and she had her chance.   Whatever the reason for the omission, it is much too late to fix now.

Discovery (requests for information from the other side through questions and requests for documents) must be completed well before trial.   It's not like tv.   There are few surprises at trial.   You must send your discovery requests well in advance of the completion deadline so the other side has a chance to respond.   You must answer in a timely fashion.   If you don't tell the other side who your witnesses are, they can't testify.   If you don't produce documents that are requested, you can't use them yourself at trial.   I get this one all the time, after we do discovery and the pre-trial statement where I have repeatedly told my clients that if we don't tell them about a witness, we can't use them, the client calls me the day before trial "Hey my cousing wants to testify instead of my brother."    Then they get mad at me when I tell them it doesn't work that way.

If you miss deadlines, bad things happen.  

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