Once the other party has been served with the complaint and summons, you will have to wait and see what the other person does before you know what your next step will be. You can learn about the possible next steps in this section.
The other parent has 20 days after being served with the summons and complaint to file their own papers. Your next step will depend on what the other person does.
If you changed your mind about going to court and you want to dismiss your case, you can do so at any time before the Defendant files a response. The forms and instructions are in the Voluntary Dismissal Packet (pdf). If the Defendant filed a response but you both want to stop the case, the two of you can Stipulate to Dismiss the Case instead.
You can ask the Court to issue a “Default” against the other parent, which means that no papers were filed by the 20 day deadline. If approved, a default generally stops the other party from filing their paperwork. You must fill out a Default form and bring it to the Clerk’s Office for review and approval.
If you do not get a default against the Defendant, he or she can still file their papers past the 20 day deadline. After the 20 days is up, it is usually a matter of who gets to the courthouse first to file their papers.
- If you filed a custody case: You can ask the judge to give you a final custody decree immediately. You will need to file a few more documents and then prepare a custody decree that includes all of the same things you asked for in your complaint. Usually you can send your proposed decree to the judge for approval without a hearing, but sometimes judges want you to appear at a short hearing first. See Getting the Final Decree for more information on how to get your case finalized.
- If you filed a paternity case: You will have to appear at a hearing even if you get a default. You can file a "Motion for Paternity/DNA Testing" to set this hearing so you and the other parent can answer some questions from the judge first. See Temporary Orders for more information.
There are a number of things that will happen after the other parent files an Answer. You will have to file some additional papers, and the judge will schedule a hearing that both of you must attend.
Papers You Must File
First, look at the answer to find out if it includes a “counterclaim.” A counterclaim looks a lot like your complaint, and will tell you what the other parent wants the judge to order. If the other parent included a counterclaim, you can file a “Reply to the Counterclaim.” Your reply tells the judge what parts of the counterclaim you agree with, disagree with, or do not know enough information about. You only need to write paragraph numbers in the reply. For instance, if you agree with the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd paragraphs in the counterclaim, you would write “1, 2, 3” in the reply on the line that says “Plaintiff admits the following allegations.”
Second, you have to file a Financial Disclosure Form within 30 days of when the other parent filed the answer (the other parent has to file one also). The Financial Disclosure Form, or “FDF,” gives information about your employment, your income, and your expenses. You do not need to complete the "Personal Asset and Debt" information in this form. The information on this form helps the judge determine child support and any other financial issues. If you do not fill out this form completely and accurately, the court may rule against you. Be sure to attach your three most recent paystubs to this form.
Wait for a Court Date
If the other parent filed an answer, the judge will set a court date in about 90 days. The hearing is called an "Early Case Evaluation," sometimes also called a “Case Management Conference.” You will receive a notice in the mail from the court with the hearing date included. Visit Case Management Conference for more information about this hearing.
Ask for a Referral to the Family Mediation Center
Whenever parents cannot agree on custody or visitation for their children, the court requires the parents to attempt mediation. You can start this process yourself rather than waiting for a judge to order you to go to mediation. See Family Mediation Center for more information.
File Motions for Temporary Orders
You might have some issues you want the judge to sort out while the case is going on. This could include where the children should live, when each parent should have time with the children, whether either person should pay temporary child support, etc.
A judge can issue temporary orders to guide the parties while the case is moving forward. Either parent can file a motion for temporary orders at any time before the final orders are granted. Please visit Motions for Temporary Orders for more information.