by Leesa M. Poag, Attorney
Prior to the beginning of each session of court, a calendar call takes place. Family law attorneys across the Triad are familiar with this process in which hearing dates are selected prior to an upcoming session of court. Though it may seem simple to select a date for your hearing and report it to the court, there are several factors that must be taken into account prior to selecting a hearing date.
The first consideration for calendar call is what issue has been calendared for hearing during the session. Is it one that will require a trial, such as custody or equitable distribution, or is it only a motion that needs to be heard, such as a motion for summary judgment or motion to compel? You must be clear on exactly what it is that has been noticed for hearing before selecting a hearing date.
A second factor that should be considered prior to calendar call is whether the issue is ready to be heard. Before a hearing can occur, the opposing party must be served with notice of the issue that you are asking the court to hear. Without proper notice to the opposing party, the court will not be willing to hear your case, and you will be forced to continue your hearing to another session of court. If you have only recently filed the complaint with the claim you want heard, you should also consider whether the opposing party has had time to respond to your complaint. If the opposing party’s time to answer has not expired, this could also cause the hearing on your claim to be delayed.
The status of the case as a whole is also important. There are some claims that should be heard before, or at the same time as, other claims. For instance, since the custody arrangement will affect the calculation of child support, it is often most efficient to hear child support either at the same time as custody, or after a custody order has been entered in order to prevent duplicative hearings.
Another consideration prior to attending calendar call is whether all prerequisites required by the court prior to the hearing have been met. For instance, North Carolina will most always require that a mediation take place between the parties prior to a hearing on the issues of custody or equitable distribution. You will need to know if these required mediations have taken place so that you can report that to the court when scheduling your hearing.
In cases for child support, alimony, and equitable distribution, there will often be affidavits and financial documents that will be required to be exchanged between the parties prior to a hearing taking place. A party is also allowed to issue discovery requests to the opposing party in a lawsuit. You should be aware of the status of any required disclosures or discovery that must be made prior to the hearing when you attend calendar call. It would be a waste of the courts time and the parties’ resources to schedule a hearing if necessary disclosures will not have been made prior to the hearing.
One of the most obvious considerations in scheduling hearing is the availability of both the attorney and the client during the session. As most attorneys have full schedules, it is important to know going in to calendar call of any dates that the attorney will not available for hearing during the session. The client’s availability to attend the hearing must also be considered. You should also have an estimation of how long you expect your hearing to take. While some motions can be heard in under an hour, issues that require a trial can take several days to complete. The estimated length of court time necessary can affect the availability of the attorney and client.
A final consideration for calendar call should be any scheduling issues or conflicts that may occur with the court’s schedule. For instance, are there any holidays within the session on which court will not be held? The court may also have other cases that have been peremptorily set during the session that will affect the availability of the court to hear your case. Further, some counties in North Carolina assign a specific judge to each case. In those instances, you would also need to make sure that the case has been calendared in front of the proper judge.