In Family Law

If your case has just been assigned a resolution plan date (RPD), you are probably wondering what this means.  It is likely the first notice of court action on your case that you have received. Will my case be resolved that day?  Will there be a hearing? Do I go before a judge?  How can I be prepared?  These are common questions. Here’s what you can expect.

The RPD is more of an administrative proceeding for the court than anything else. The court wants to know the status of your case, how it will likely proceed, and what kind of assistance you may need.  Often, you never see a judge.  The process varies from courthouse to courthouse but follows a similar format.  It usually begins by checking in with the clerk at the appointed courtroom.  You then go to the family relations office, sign in there and wait for your name to be called.  Once called, you and your spouse meet with a family relations officer – a social worker or other mental health professional who works for the court.  They will ask a little about your case, yourselves and any children you have.  They will want to know if you’ve exchanged financial affidavits, the status of any production requests and if there have been any settlement discussions.  They will also want to know of any disputes or issues that may need immediate attention and whether any motions have been filed.  After their assessment, they identify your case as Track A, Track B or Track C.  Track A cases are expected to resolve relatively quickly by agreement and need the least court assistance.  Track B cases are expected to take longer to resolve and need more court assistance.  Track C cases are likely to need the most court assistance, including hearings to resolve some if not all issues in dispute.

Once this determination has been made, that information is completed by the family relations officer and submitted electronically to the court clerk. You will return to the court clerk for the purpose of obtaining several dates for future proceedings on your case.  The higher the track, the more dates you will be given.  It is important to bring or have access to your calendar so that you can check there are no conflicts with the proposed dates.  It is much easier to adjust them at this point than in the future. From there, you will likely be dismissed.  Occasionally, if one or the other party has not submitted their financial affidavit by this point, it may be necessary to report to a judge to address the issue.  The judge will likely give a final date for compliance.

The whole process usually takes about an hour, but we suggested planning on two and getting to court 30 minutes early. Those who have attorneys representing them will spend most of their time just waiting in a hallway.  The attorneys will do all the checking in, meet with the family relations officer and obtain the dates.  Clients should notify their attorneys of any upcoming dates they know will not be good for a period of one year as dates can go out that far.  Think vacations, graduations, weddings, medical procedures of yourself or someone you may care for, and special work assignments or work travel obligations.

Despite the name, rarely are cases ever resolved at an RPD.  The process can, however, be beneficial. Usually for attorneys, it is the first opportunity to discuss this case with their counterpart and get an idea of how the case may proceed.  Attorneys may discuss and agree upon dates for discovery so as to move a case along.  It does provide an opportunity to obtain a financial affidavit if one was not provided.  Issues that may require immediate attention may be able to be discussed and agreed upon since everyone is in court.  At the very least, parties obtain dates for their case to be addressed by the court, if needed, and leave with some sense of the time it will take to conclude their matter if no agreement is reached.

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