In order to commence a proceeding in the Supreme Court, a filing fee of $210.00 must be paid and an index number is assigned to file a Summons with Notice or a Summons and Complaint. Thereafter, the Summons is served upon the other party. Negotiations may begin, and at this point the Court is not yet involved. But at any time either party may bring the case to the Court by filing a Request for Judicial Intervention and paying an additional fee of $95.00. That “R.J.I”, together with a Request for Preliminary Conference, is brought to the Court, and a judge is assigned to the case. The Preliminary Conference must take place within forty-five (45) days of the request. That is usually the first time the parties go to Court.
At the Preliminary Conference a schedule for Discovery, or the exchange of financial records, is completed, and other issues are addressed, such as the need for an Attorney for the Child (AFC) , appraisals of real property, evaluation of businesses by forensic accountants, and temporary support and/or a schedule of parenting time.
After the Preliminary Conference, the discovery process and evaluation of assets begin. Typically, the parties return for a status conference at the Court in about two (2) months. At each conference, the judge and/or the judge’s Principal Law Clerk (an attorney) discuss the issues with the attorneys “in chambers” (the judge’s office), and/or in the open courtroom with the litigants present, to encourage a negotiated settlement.
While settlement does occur in over 90% of all cases, if the parties are unable to reach an agreement, the judge will schedule a trial, where the litigants will testify, and be subject to cross-examination. There are no jury trials in matrimonial cases.