Divorce can be frustrating and stressful enough, without the process bogging down due to an unresponsive opposing counsel. The court process for divorces is comprised of very specific stages. If your husband's attorney does not respond during any or all of these stages, your case stalls. If you don't have your own lawyer to force a response from his fellow lawyer, there are options that you can exercise yourself.
Compel a Response
If neither you nor your husband can't get his attorney to respond, it may be time to get the court involved. If the attorney fails to respond to a deadline or to produce requested information, after the deadline has passed, you may file a motion to compel his response. A motion to compel asks the court to tell the unresponsive attorney to follow through and produce the required documents.
Call a Conference
A motion for status conference is another way to bring the court's attention to the attorney's unresponsiveness. Generally, any party to a case may file such a motion. Once at the conference, the judge takes a look at the case's progress and orders the case to proceed to the next phase by a certain date.
Sound the Alarm
You may file a motion with the court asking for emergency relief at any point after the petition for divorce is filed. If your spouse's lawyer becomes unresponsive, filing a motion for emergency support is a way to get the attention of your spouse, his attorney and the court. An emergency motion for relief tells the court you need immediate help, in the form or spousal or child support or additional support, or even insurance coverage or attorney's fees. It's important to tell the court you need this emergency help because your spouse is not cooperating in moving the divorce toward closure, which means he must remedy the financial or other damage his non-cooperation has caused you. Such motions also should include a request for reimbursement of the attorney's fees incurred in bringing the motion, as it would not have been necessary, and the fees not incurred, if your spouse and his attorney were actively pursuing the divorce.
If you've started negotiations for property division, support and children's issues, but your spouse's attorney's failure to respond to settlement offers has stalled the process, you might ask to the court to order mediation. In some states, such as Florida, the law requires judges to order mediation, but even states that don't require it allow you to ask for it. Generally, courts feel it saves time and money, for both the litigants and the court system, for issues to be decided by the spouses rather than for the divorce to go to trial. If the court grants your motion for voluntary mediation, the mediation becomes court-ordered and your spouse, and his attorney, must comply or risk being held in contempt of court.
- Washington Courts: Court Rules
- Family Centered Case Resolution Process Information: Status Conference
- Ohio Legal Services: Motions to Compel Discovery and Sanctions
- Eighth Judicial Circuit of Florida: Family Mediation
- Drake University Law: A Guide to Legal Issues for Non-custodial Parents
- REI's Court ADR Resource Center: Why Do Courts Use ADR?
- Southwest Iowa Mediation Center: Mediation Statistics
- Superior Court of California, Contra Costa County: Frenquently Asked Questions About Mediation
- Sherri Donovan & Associates: Divorce