Step 1: Pleadings
The first step involves one party filing a complaint. This can include:
A complaint in which the plaintiff bringing the suit must set forth the facts supporting the claims and state the causes of action.
- An answer during which a defendant must admit, deny or deny knowledge of any alleged facts in the complaint.
- Affirmative defenses, which involve the defendant providing justifications to the complaint.
- A counterclaim, which is filed when the defendant brings an action against the plaintiff. This means that if you file a lawsuit against someone, he or she might sue you back. If this happens, you now need to defend yourself.
- A reply to counterclaims, which is similar to an answer.
Step 2: Discovery
After the pleadings, the lawsuit enters the discovery stage. Usually discovery entails:
- Depositions, where the parties can depose (or interview) under oath the other party before the trial.
- Interrogatories, which involve each party can ask written questions of the other party prior to trial.
- Document demands, when each party can request relevant documents from the other party.
- Subpoenas, which are orders compelling individuals or organizations to produce documents, answer written questions or be interviewed under oath.
Step 3: Motions
A motion is basically a request or an application to a court asking for a ruling. There are many different types of motions as there are pre-trial and post-trial motions. Some of the motions are:
- To dismiss the case outright before answering the complaint.
- For summary judgment for the court to make its decision when there is no dispute in facts and no need to proceed to trial,
- To compel, usually when a party is not providing documentary evidence or required information;
- To strike usually when a party is violating an Order.
- To renew or re-argue a previous motion.
- For pendente lite support, which is a temporary financial support sought during a divorce proceeding.
- To enforce, this kind of motion asks the judge to enforce the Order and/or to hold the other party in contempt for not following the court’s Order. You can also ask the judge to award you any unpaid money, including child support or spousal support.