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Expedited Matrimonial Part

Justice Janice M. Rosa
Supervising Matrimonial Matters




Introduction | Preparation | Negotiation |
Custody & Visitation
| Temporary Relief | Final Resolution

"Expedited Matrimonial Part of Erie County Supreme Court was created to help resolve matrimonial lawsuits in a fair, efficient and less costly manner. A large majority of matrimonial lawsuits are successfully settled here prior to trial. Every effort is made to respect the parties and their privacy as they participate in this emotional process. While each case is unique, this brochure seeks to explain the essential elements of the legal process common to all matrimonial cases in this Court."

Justice Sharon S. Townsend
Former Administrative Judge
Eighth Judicial District, Buffalo, NY



Introduction

Welcome to the Expedited Matrimonial Part of Erie County Supreme Court. Justice Janice M. Rosa and the Court Professionals are committed to help the parties fairly resolve your case. Every effort will be made to insure that you and your privacy are respected during this process.

The process will include pre-court preparation (primarily document and information exchange), negotiation at one or more conferences, and either a final settlement or transfer to a Trial Part of Court. If the case is substantially resolved except for one issue, the parties may enter into an agreement about all other issues and agree to submit the remaining issue to the Court at an expedited hearing before the Judge or one of the Court Attorneys/Referees.

If there are parenting/custody issues, the Court will refer the parties for additional assistance from a trained professional.

The "expedited" or "mini hearing" will allow the parties to testify and to provide legal argument to the Judge or the Court Attorney/Referee for a determination.

The parties may also agree to send the case (in whole or in part) to mediation or arbitration. Use of an outside Mediator or Arbitrator may involve some additional costs to the parties, but may be less costly and less time consuming than a lengthy trial.

Preparation

Before the first conference at the Court, both sides are required to exchange financial information in a standardized form known as a "236B" Financial Affidavit. The parties may also wish to obtain the appraisal and evaluation of certain significant assets (for example, the marital home, pensions, or a business). An "automatic order" in each case requires that all substantial marital assets be maintained absent agreement of the parties or further order of the Court. This provides a "status quo" while the proceeding is pending.

The likelihood of an early resolution will be greatly enhanced by the availability and exchange of relevant financial information. A scheduling order will be issued by the Court to insure the orderly and full disclosure of all necessary information. Parties or their attorneys will exchange "proposed dispositions" after the information has been exchanged to allow the Court to narrow or resolve some or all of the issues.

Negotiation

At the first conference the Court representative will meet with the attorneys and the parties. The information about the case as well as the position of the parties on various issues (grounds, support {child or spouse}, property distribution, payment of fees) will be reviewed and discussed to determine where there are areas of agreement or disagreement.

When there is sufficient information available, the Court representative, attorneys, and parties will work toward a full or partial resolution that would be acceptable to both sides.

If the case does not move toward resolution after several conferences, the case will be assigned to a Trial Judge for final disposition. At that point the services of the Expedited Matrimonial Part end.

Custody & Visitation

If custody or visitation/access are in dispute, the Court will usually appoint an attorney to be the Law Guardian for the Children (to be their lawyer and advocate) to try to reach an acceptable "parenting plan". Unless otherwise directed by the Court, children are not to be brought to Court.

The Law Guardian will be paid by the parties unless the income of the parties qualifies them for a Law Guardian paid by the State. The parties may try to resolve custody or visitation/access without the appointment of a Law Guardian.

A number of excellent programs are available to help parents and children to successfuly adjust to the new circumstances. Under new rules the Court will direct both parents to attend a Parent Education Program to help the family to adjust to the new circumstances. There are other agency resources available as well.

Temporary Relief

If the parties cannot agree on information disclosure, support or custodial issues pending a final settlement or trial, an application (motion) may be made to the presiding Judge of the Consolidated Expedited Part to grant temporary relief pending a comprehensive settlement or trial. Every effort should be made to resolve these temporary issues with the assistance, if necessary, of a Court Referee, before a motion is filed, to avoid delay and the expenses associated to both parties by brining a motion or a cross-motion to the Court.

Final Resolution

Sometimes an agreement may be put "on record" in a courtroom before the Judge or a Court Referee. In many instances the case will be briefly adjourned to allow time to prepare a written settlement agreement. The case will then be scheduled for a "prove up" on the return date to allow for a final disposition. The parties will be asked questions about the agreement, and one - sometimes both (dual-divorce) - will give testimony about the grounds for a divorce, annulment, or separation.

Within a few weeks of this "prove up" the final Findings and Judgment will be submitted to the Court by one of the attorneys. The divorce will be final when the Judgment of Divorce is signed by the Judge and filed in the County Clerk's Office. A certified copy will be served to both parties.


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