Recently, I was talking with a potential client and we got to the point of discussing attorney fees. She clearly viewed her case as a fairly simple matter, and it could be in some circumstances. I quoted a substantial retainer and she asked why it would be so much for a limited case, which was a perfectly understandable question. I explained that I didn't know how many hearings there would be and she asked how there could be more than one hearing. So I gave her a number of possible scenarios that could lead to delay and multiple court dates. She was surprised, but understood.
Why does a case take so long? Here are some of the common reasons why any family law case may get delayed over a long period of time.
1. It may not really be simple at all. Although a party may think it is uncomplicated, an attorney may look at a situation and instantly see many possible problems that have to be dealt with.
2. One party or the other may have received short notice of a hearing, so the hearing must be reset to comply with the rules or for fairness.
3. A party may need time to hire an attorney.
4. A party may need time to get money to pay for an attorney.
5. An attorney may have a scheduling conflict.
6. An attorney may need time to prepare for an unexpected issue.
7. Discovery of information and records may need to be done before the case can proceed.
8. The case may need to go to mediation.
9. The judge may not be available or may be too busy for a hearing on a given day.
10. Bad weather can cause a postponement.
11. There may be a holiday (federal, state or local).
12. Someone may be on vacation.
13. A witness may be unavailable.
14. Some important details may change.
15. A new witness may have been found and further preparation may be necessary.
16. Someone may be ill.
17. There could be a problem in taking care of a child on a given day.
18. The judge may need or take more time to decide.
19. The judge may order the attorneys to prepare a brief on an issue.
20. A hearing may take longer than planned and the conclusion may have to be reset later.
The above are all legitimate reasons that come up and cause delays in cases. On top of that, the other party may stall intentionally for various reasons, and that's hard to control.
Sometimes, delay helps you and sometimes it doesn't, but you have to be prepared for delays in any litigation. It's just part of the process. Talk to your attorney early if you have concerns about the timing. Good luck in getting your case resolved.