The Start of a Lawsuit
Many clients think all an attorney needs to do is file a piece of paper with the court or fill in a form and pay some money to the court and then everything works out. However there are many nuanced steps in beginning a lawsuit, and this guide is here to explain them.
Drafting the PetitionI usually quote 3 to 4 hours for drafting a petition for my clients, even though the actual paperwork may take as little as one hour. On the other hand, sometimes it can take several hours to finish a petition because it must be perfectly tailored to my client*s needs. One part of time that adds up is once I complete drafting the petition I need the client to come into my office and sign the verification stating they understand and agree with everything that they read in the petition. After this I*ll need to make copies and prepare a cover letter for the Clerk of Court to process the paperwork.
Filing the PetitionOnce the paperwork is ready to get filed, I like the court to give my client*s petition the proper amount of attention. Couldn*t I just mail in the paperwork and let the court do the rest? Yes of course, however usually my clients really want things done as quickly as possible. As a result, I usually go to the Clerk*s office in person. The first thing I*m doing is dropping off the check to the clerk of court along with handing them the paper copy of the petition, my clients verification, and any service information. For uncontested divorces I have to sit there and wait for the service information to be passed back to me so I can bring it to the client so they can have their spouse sign the waiver of service. For cases involving setting a hearing officer conference and a trial or hearing, it*s important that I walk those through to both the hearing officer's office and to the judge*s office so that I can get the right date and so that I know I don*t have a conflict with the hearing officer dates/times and so that my client is aware of when the upcoming dates are.
Service of ProcessAfter the clerk*s office has all the paperwork ready for service they send the paperwork to the sheriff*s office. The sheriff then serves the defendant, and this can sometimes take several weeks. At around 2 to 3 weeks I start calling the clerk of courts office to see whether they*ve gotten what*s called the sheriff*s return. The sheriff*s return is a sheet of paper showing that service has been made or has not been made on a particular defendant.