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What Does it Mean When a Divorce Case is Set on Progress Call?

The average divorce has many steps to reach before its conclusion, with some divorces moving quickly toward their resolution and others proceeding slowly. In order to measure the divorce timeline and ensure that the process is always moving forward, a court can use so-called "progress calls" to find out where in the process the divorce is. A "case set to progress call" means that the judge has asked to know the direction of your case. It is a legal process whose sole purpose is to ensure satisfactory forward progress in the divorce proceedings.

The need for progress calls

When divorce petitions are filed, it sometimes becomes necessary for the spouse to be located. If the defendant hasn’t been served, the judge won’t be able to set another date to determine how far along the case has moved. Sometimes, if a spouse hasn’t responded within the allotted 30 days, the court eventually dismisses the case.

Sixty days after the filing, your case will likely be set for the first progress call, with the actual court date usually occurring 90 days after the filing. A progress call will assess the status of the case. It might even delve into the state of the family. Are the bills still being paid on time? Are the children adjusting to the situation? Your attorney will regularly appear before the judge to provide updates. This is important to establish whether the case will go to trial, updating the court about settlement talks (if they are in the works), and what actions need to be taken to keep the case on track.

A progress call also serves as an opportunity for your lawyer to ask the court for any help needed to speed up the process. The status calls usually take place in 30-day increments. For example, your lawyer might give the first status update on May 25 and will have a follow-up meeting on June 25.

What happens at a progress call

During a progress call the court will ask for information about the progress of the case. They might also want to know if there are any special circumstances to be considered. Also, your lawyer can present any new discoveries that might be pertinent to your case. In a progress call, you are not required to show up for court.

The Standing Order from the judge is the start of your progress call. The court document is organized as follows:

  • Progress Call – Initial Status Call. This sets up the basic tenants of what the plaintiff should expect from the court and goes over the timeline of the case.

  • Report of Service. At a progress call hearing your attorney will inform the court as to the "service of process upon all named parties." This simply means that if your spouse hasn’t responded to the petition, it will need to be addressed. Also, if there are any other issues to be discussed, the progress call hearing is where this process starts.

  • Pretrial Memo. The pretrial memo establishes that the case is properly in "the Law Division." Your attorney prepares this document, which is distributed to all parties involved with the case.

  • Regular Pretrial Status Call. With the regular pretrial status call, this essentially puts the components of your trial, or other dispositions in place. It also sets up the pretrial motion process (if needed).

  • Pretrial Conferences. The pretrial conference encourages settlement negotiations. If both parties see this as a benefit, the court will assist with the settlement negotiations. The pretrial conference takes place approximately one month before the trial date.

  • Final Pretrial Memorandum. The final pretrial memorandum is the last stop right before the trial. The trial date is set and a date for the pretrial conference is also put on the books.

The importance of progress calls

A case involving children and division of multiple assets might mean a more complex case, and if a case is in limbo for some reason, the judge can order the next step. A progress call keeps the facts of the case in motion. The last status date typically ends with the judge setting up a pre-trial conference, which happens right before the trial.

A progress call is designed to keep your divorce proceedings running on a smooth track. It’s a good idea to consult with an attorney about how a progress call might affect your own case.

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