While nobody wants to go to court, it’s often a necessary step to protect your family, property or business. Whether you’re going through a challenging divorce or child custody issue, a real estate dispute or a business issue, sometimes two parties just can’t agree on terms and it’s necessary to have a third party—the court—decide the outcome once and for all.
When people think of a legal battle, they picture a courtroom like they see on TV, with a plaintiff and defendant arguing their cases. The judicial process is more in-depth than just that courtroom scene, but what takes place in the courtroom is the final part of the litigation process before the decision is made.
3 basic steps
There are three basic steps to the litigation process. First, a plaintiff files his or her case. This might mean you want custody of your children or feel that a business partner breached contract. You would file a lawsuit and submit your evidence.
The second step is reviewing the evidence. Each side, plaintiff and defendant, will be given time to look over evidence in the case to develop a strategy. Throughout the review process, both sides talk back and forth, attempting to reach agreement, question evidence and more.
Once the evidence is finalized and, if the parties haven’t reached agreement, the case goes to court. Here, a judge or jury will hear the evidence and issue a final ruling. The overall process takes more time and is more complex, but this is the general process of most lawsuits, whether in civil or criminal court.
Many variables, many strategies
The three-step process above may sound simple enough, but each case has unique conditions. The type of case determines the type of court. Family law, criminal cases, and business or real estate issues will be handled differently. Traffic court processes cases more systematically than murder cases, for example.
The review step also determines how a case proceeds. Strategic decisions about evidence and charges may shift court hearings. It’s common for the parties to negotiate and change the terms, such as reducing charges, finding a compromise or making decisions that might change the case in order to speed up the process. This includes deciding if a case will be heard by a judge or a jury.
The importance of experienced guidance
All cases come down to their unique details. How you respond to the variables in the review stage will greatly affect the outcome in court. Similarly, negotiation can significantly alter how a case finishes compared to where it began.
Whether family, business or real estate, each area of law has different conditions. Your choice of legal counsel will affect your strategy and, in turn, your argument in court. Each decision throughout the three steps will impact your case in a new way. It is vital to choose an attorney you trust to represent you as your case develops.