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Civil Cases

Civil law seeks to resolve non-criminal disputes such as disagreements over the meaning of contracts, property ownership, divorce, child custody, and damages for personal and property damage. A civil court is a place where people can solve their problems with people peacefully. The function of civil law is to provide a legal remedy to solve problems. Sometimes civil law is based on a state or federal statute at other times civil law is based on a ruling by the court.

A civil law handles noncriminal legal matters. In other words, it's for someone who has not been accused of violating the law. Rather, it's where private individuals or entities sue one another for either money or some other type of relief.

Scheduling of Civil Law

A civil case is started by filing a summons and a complaint by the plaintiff. The summons and complaint must be served upon the defendant. In other words, the defendant receives notice of the lawsuit, the allegations against the defendant and the type of relief sought.

1. Procedure

In a civil case, the process is started by the plaintiff, who files a summons and a complaint. This is served on the defendant and provides him with notification of the impending lawsuit, details of the allegations against him, and what damages the plaintiff is seeking. The defendant then has a specified time period in which to file a response. Different states have different options as to what type of response can be filed, and it is often necessary or advisable to consult an attorney at this stage.

2. Phases

There are six main phases in a civil court case: jury selection (if the case requires a jury); opening statements; witness testimony and cross-examination; closing arguments; jury instruction by the judge (if applicable); deliberation and verdict. A civil court case may not always focus on the allegations made by the plaintiff and the liability of the defendant. In a family court, for example, both parties may make allegations against the other and the trial judge may rule in favor of one party on one issue and the other party on another.

3. Settlement

On many occasions, the attorneys will reach an agreement before the case reaches trial (and in some cases before a lawsuit is even filed). When this happens, both parties will sign a settlement agreement detailing what they are required to do, or not do, to successfully settle the matter out of court. Naturally, this saves both parties a great deal of time and money. Alternative outcomes are arbitration, mediation or dismissal of the case.