Last Updated on September 28, 2023 by Turner Thornton
It is not uncommon in divorce or family law litigation for cases to stall or drag on. Sometimes it is intentional by one of the parties. Other times, there are valid reasons for the delay. Regardless, if there is no movement on your case, a family law judge can move for a “Dismissal for Want of Prosecution,” or DWOP.
In this article, we are going to discuss DWOP or “Dismissal for Want of Prosecution.” Please be sure to also watch the informative videos by family law attorney Turner Thornton.
What is Dismissal for Want of Prosecution?
When a divorce or family law case is filed in Texas, the judge expects that the case will steadily progress toward a resolution. If the case stalls or sits idle for months, the judge may send the parties a notice saying the court is placing the case on a dismissal docket and moving for a "dismissal for want or prosecution."
This notice will give the parties a date to appear in court to explain what is being done on the case and why it is moving slowly (or not at all). If the parties do not show up or don't have a good reason for the delay, the judge may dismiss the case.
A dismissal for want of prosecution is different than a voluntary dismissal, which is when both parties agree to dismiss the case. A DWOP is an order by the court.
What is the reason for a DWOP?
In Texas, divorce and family law cases can take months or even years to resolve. If a case is taking too long, it can bog down the court system and prevent other cases from being heard in a timely manner.
Courts do not like having a backlog of cases, and they want to keep their dockets moving. Sending a notice that a case is about to be dismissed for sitting idle is one way to motivate the parties to keep moving toward a resolution. And if they don't react, it's a way for the judge to clear it off the docket.
What are common reasons why a court might send a DWOP notice?
DWOP notices are fairly common in family law cases, including divorce and child custody cases. There are a number of scenarios that might prompt a judge to move for a dismissal for want of prosecution, including but not limited to:
* One party failed to serve the other divorce papers;
* One or both parties failed to appear at a court setting;
* One or both parties missed a deadline;
* One or both parties appear to be intentionally delaying the proceedings;
* Neither side appear to be motivated to engage in alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation, and the case has not been set for trial.
* The parties' attorneys have not been communicating or cooperating with each other.
* There has been no activity on the case for an extended period of time.
What should I do if I've received a notice of dismissal for want of prosecution?
The first thing you should do is take the notice seriously. If you have received a DWOP notice, it means the court is ready to dismiss your case if you don't take action.
You will need to appear in court on the date specified in the notice and be prepared to explain what is being done on the case and why it is taking so long. If you don't have a family law attorney, now would be the time to get one.
What happens at the DWOP hearing?
In family law cases, it is not uncommon for a party to intentionally delay proceedings - and judges know this. Of course, there are also sometimes valid reasons for delays. During the DWOP hearing, the judge will work to get to the bottom of the reason for the delay and decide whether or not to dismiss the case.
The hearing is usually short - about 20 minutes - but it is important to be prepared. You will want to have a good reason for the delay and be ready to discuss what has been done on the case since it was filed. If you do not have a good reason, or if you have not done anything to move the case forward, the judge may dismiss your case.
If you have received a DWOP notice, or if you are concerned about your case being dismissed, contact an experienced family law attorney in your area if you don't already have one. An attorney can help you prepare for the DWOP hearing and make sure you are taking the necessary steps to keep your case on track.
Can I get my case off of the dismissal docket?
Yes, but you will need to take action quickly. If you have received a DWOP notice, you will need to attend the hearing and explain why your case should not be dismissed and what is being done to move the case forward. If you can do this, the judge may agree to remove your case from the DWOP docket.
What happens if my case is dismissed for want of prosecution?
If your case is dismissed, it's not the end of the world. It doesn't mean you've lost or that the other party has won. You can file a motion to reinstate the case within 30 days of the dismissal order and ask the judge to reopen it. If that motion is denied, you can refile your case, but you will have to start from scratch, pay another filing fee and have the other side served again.
How can I avoid a DWOP?
The best way to avoid a DWOP is to have an experienced family law attorney handle your case. An attorney will file the necessary paperwork in a timely manner, adhere to all deadlines, and make sure you are taking the necessary steps to keep your case on track and prevent any delays.
If you have received a DWOP notice, or if you are concerned about your case being dismissed, contact an experienced family law attorney today. We can help. The team at Varghese Summersett Family Law Group has years of experience handling DWOPs, and we can help keep your case on track and work toward a resolution that is best for you. DWOPs are serious, but with the right attorney on your side, you can avoid having your case dismissed. Contact us today at 817-900-3220 to learn more. We serve Tarrant County and surrounding cities.