Realistic Time Estimates

One of the hardest things for attorneys who try cases is to provide the court with correct estimates of the length of the hearing.  Except for short matters and true emergencies, any significant matter relating to custody or divorce must be scheduled well in advance – and for the correct length.  An incorrect time estimate can result in rushed testimony, witnesses being unheard, or even delays in the completion of the hearing.  It also annoys the judge.

Correct time estimates are difficult in part because the attorneys might not agree.  Opposing counsel, for example, may think the trial requires three days, while your attorney might think it only two days.  In that situation, the longer estimate will nearly always be used.

Some attorneys have been known to try to “game” the system by giving unrealistically short estimates when setting hearings under the theory that the shorter time estimate will permit the attorney to get a faster hearing date.  While the date obtained might be sooner, the delays that could result from an inaccurate time estimate might in the long run result in it taking longer to get a final outcome than a proper estimate in the first place.

As a client, your role in the time estimate is limited, but it’s also important.  Early in the case,  you will need to cooperate with your attorney in making realistic estimates of the number of witnesses your case may require and the length of time that they will testify.  On the other side of that coin, you must trust your attorneys and their experience in deciding which witnesses may be cumulative or unnecessary.

Chances are, you’ll feel like you’re waiting a long time for a hearing. That is understandable, given the emotional nature of these cases.  But inaccurate information used in an effort to “speed up” the hearing rarely works as hoped.  Help your attorney be correct with estimates of hearing length.