There are rules specific to matrimonial cases, designed, among other things, to govern client-attorney relationships and expedite the court process. Rules concerning the client-attorney relationships include the following:
- Prior to signing a retainer, a lawyer must give every matrimonial client a written Statement of the Client’s Rights and Responsibilities.
- Representation requires a written retainer which must ultimately be filed with and reviewed by the Court.
- There are no non-refundable retainers in matrimonial proceedings. However, minimum fees are permissible if they meet certain standards.
- Security interests (e.,mortgages, confessions of judgment) by your attorney must be specified in the retainer agreement and only are permitted by court order, and only where the opposing party also is given notice.
- Every sworn statement must be certified as truthful by the attorney. Most lawyers require clients to verify that the client has provided truthful information to his or her counsel.
- Fee disputes may be subject to binding arbitration.
- Expedited court proceedings (sometimes known as “fast track” cases) will be utilized. Many cases which do not involve complicated matters will be tried within six months after the court holds a preliminary conference. These conferences will be scheduled shortly after the first legal papers are served. Expert reports and responses also must be served before trials.
Rules designed to expedite proceedings include the following:
- The parties are required to request that a judge be assigned to the case within a fixed period of time following the commencement of the action.
- The parties are required to fill out detailed statements of net worth, setting forth all of their assets and liabilities and income and expenses, as well as any assets that were transferred in the preceding three years.
- Once a judge is assigned, the parties are required to appear before the Court to set a schedule for discovery and trial, where they are required to bring pay stubs, tax returns, and account statements.
- The parties are required to disclose the identity of any experts they intend to call at trial, and to provide the Court and the other party with a written report from their experts.
- At the time of trial, the parties are required to submit a detailed statement of proposed disposition, laying out their claims and the facts supporting them.