Westchester County, NY, has some unique policies and procedures for conducting a divorce through the court system. If your divorce will take place in Westchester County, it is important that you engage a divorce attorney familiar with the distinctive norms and practices in Westchester County divorce court. Moreover, avoiding the court system altogether may be advisable in your case, so consult with a Westchester divorce lawyer well-versed in non-court alternatives such as mediation and collaborative divorce.
WHAT’S UNIQUE IN A WESTCHESTER DIVORCE?
The first phase of a court-based divorce is called “discovery,” meaning the exchange of documents and information. If you are doing a divorce through the Westchester courts, during the discovery phase the spouses and their attorneys meet with a Court Attorney Referee (CAR). The CAR system – unique to Westchester – has been set up to keep track of discovery information and to lighten the workload of the judges, who are inundated with cases. In Westchester County it’s likely that you may never see a judge during the discovery phase. After the discovery phase is complete the divorce case is sent to a judge for a pre-trial conference and a trial.
Another quirk of Westchester County divorce court is that attorneys must get permission from the CAR in order to file a motion. In other counties motions are regularly made for all kinds of reasons. Not so in Westchester. An attorney who is not familiar with the Westchester local divorce procedures can make the mistake of filing motions that never make it to a judge or are immediately denied because they do not follow the local court norms.
Westchester has another unusual practice, the requirement that “trial notebooks” be prepared by the attorneys. This requirement is expensive for the clients because it requires a lot of their attorneys’ time (i.e. billable hours!) to compile the notebook. This is another reason to engage an attorney familiar with Westchester divorce practice. An attorney unfamiliar with this idiosyncratic requirement of the Westchester divorce court will not be as efficient or precise in compiling the trial notebook
TRY TO AVOID THE COURT SYSTEM ALTOGETHER
With all of the above as background, going to court should be a last resort. Most divorce cases can be settled through divorce mediation or collaborative divorce. If you are considering a divorce in Westchester County, seek guidance from an attorney familiar with mediation, collaborative law, and Westchester County divorce court practices. Our law firm understands that divorce is a stressful process, and that people can become overwhelmed when considering the best way to proceed. We suggest calling us to make an appointment for a free initial consultation to learn about your options.
© Arnold D. Cribari 2016