If someone serves you with a lawsuit, don’t treat it lightly. In most circumstances, the Civil Rules of Procedure give you 21 days from the date of service to file an answer and affirmative defenses. Failure to answer the suit timely can result in a default judgment being entered against you.
If a default judgment is entered and you want to set it aside, you will have the burden of proving the Court should set it aside under Rule 59 and/or 60. This may be difficult if you cannot show that your failure to file a timely response was justified under the circumstances, and given the wide discretion the Court has on setting aside default judgments, you may find yourself stuck with a judgment for which you may have had a defense.
More than just timely filing an answer, you must consider how long litigation lasts. Even when cases are handled expeditiously, they can last years. If you become slothful and not diligent, your case can be delayed unnecessarily. There are several things you can do to expedite your case and gather evidence you may need to prosecute or defend your case.
For example, in all cases, you have a right of discovery, which means each side is required, upon request of the other party, to disclose information they possess that may lead to relevant evidence in the case. You can quickly serve the other party with discovery requests, (1) showing them you mean business, (2) getting facts that could help you in a hearing, mediation or trial, and (3) bringing your case to a resolution more quickly.
Once you get discovery, you can more quickly determine if a motion for summary judgment is appropriate. A court can order summary judgment in favor of a party where there are no genuine issues of material fact. This can save you a lot of time and money, enabling you to either move on with your life or get a judgment against the opposing party and thus pursuing collection quicker. This general rule applies to all cases, including family law—the most common type of case seen in District Court.
Unfortunately, many people involved with dissolution of marriage or parenting plans get too distracted in their personal lives to think about how to handle their case. Thus, they tend to focus on personal matters that, in reality, do not affect their case one way or the other. They tend to bog down and not realize that all litigation is essentially the same. All claims are governed by statute or common law; every person asking the court for relief has a burden of proof; and all parties carrying the burden of proof have to use relevant, meaningful facts to persuade a judge to rule in their favor.
This is where having an attorney can really help you in prosecuting or defending your case. You need someone who knows, not just the law, but also the procedure. You need an attorney who knows the sensitivity that time brings to litigation and how to maneuver through the court system without getting bogged down on things that have unpersuasive relevance.
You do not always need to hire an attorney to fully represent you. You can also hire an attorney to represent you on a limited basis. Tim Baldwin does both: he can represent you in full capacity or on a limited basis. Contact Tim for your legal needs.