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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Divorce Litigation Problems: The Judge Never Made a Decision

The Probate and Family Court in Massachusetts is underfunded and cannot handle the amount of litigants that seek relief there each year in as timely a manner as everyone would like.  The Court staff are not ignoring cases, but there just aren't enough court staff to handle the demand.  Because of these issues, the wait time for a hearing in most counties has increased significantly.

But finally after months and months of waiting your hearing is finally here.  The Judge hears your case and takes the issues under advisement.  And now the waiting begins again.  How long are you expected to wait for an answer from the Judge?  What happens if a decision is never made?  Or, even worse, if the decision was made but never recorded due to some clerical error?

In the past, our only option when these issues arose was to check in with the Judge's Lobby and find out if one of the Judge's secretaries could discover the delay.  Of course, this created more work for the staff, only making the problems worse.

To help alleviate the stress on their staff and give parties the formal ability to inquire about the status of their case, the Probate and Family Court has released the STATUS INQUIRY FORM (available here).

The form provides a formal way for parties (or their counsel) to inquire as to the status of a decision.  The form should be used only when the following decisions are at least this many days overdue:

  • 30 days since a Motion or Complaint for Contempt was taken under advisement.
  • 60 days since a Post Judgment Motion was taken under advisement.
  • 90 days since a Motion for Summary Judgment was taken under advisement.
  • 5 months since a Trial was taken under advisement.

While some have expressed concern regarding potential backlash of using this form, the form makes the contact information of the filer optional.  While, the court will obviously know that it was one of two parties, the Chief Justice has indicated that the individual courts are on board with the use of the form and have encouraged its use.

If you want to avoid these problems altogether, consider alternatives to litigation.

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