When you are in the middle of a court case, there might be a lot of legal deadlines to keep track of. You will need to have paperwork in at the correct times. You might have court fees or various payments due on different days. You’ll need to wait for certain documents in order to fill out other documents. When combined with your job, taking care of the children, paying bills, maintaining your home, and all of the other things you have to do, all of the deadlines can become overwhelming. You might always be afraid you’ll miss something; even worse, you might actually miss a deadline. Take a deep breath, relax, and read on for tips and tricks for keeping track of legal deadlines.
Get a Big Calendar
For many people, particularly those in busy households where there are several different schedules to keep track of, a large analog (paper) calendar is an invaluable tool. Make sure you buy one with large squares that will be able to hold a lot of information. When it comes to legal deadlines, you’ll want to include fax numbers, email addresses, telephone numbers, and various other information that you’ll need to get your documents (and yourself or your children) where they need to go.
Another good tip is to work on color-coding your calendar. It can be easy to miss something when you have several items due on the same day in the various parts of your life. You might have a meeting with your boss on the same day that your interrogatories are due back to your lawyer, for example. Using different colors for work deadlines, children’s appointments, lawyer appointments, important phone calls, and court documents can help you keep everything straight so you don’t miss any legal deadlines.
Get a Small Calendar
The problem with a big calendar is that you aren’t going to carry it around with you. When you’re at work and your lawyer calls or emails you with instructions or a deadline, you might be tempted to commit it to memory or write it on a post-it note and stick it in your wallet. The problem, of course, is that you are likely going to forget the details and you could easily drop or otherwise lose a post-it note. Instead, buy yourself a small calendar. There are checkbook-sized calendars that you can probably find for a dollar or two at your local discount store. Any time you learn of any type of legal deadlines while away from home, write it in the calendar.
When you do get home, you must look at your small calendar and add the deadline or appointment to the large calendar. If you find that you already have an appointment or you aren’t going to be able to make a deadline for whatever reason, take care of it right then and there. Do not put off contacting your lawyer to change the appointment or to find out whether a deadline can be moved; call immediately, even if you have to leave a message, or send a quick email. Otherwise, you could easily forget or knowing that you have to add one more thing to your to-do list could cause you unnecessary anxiety.
Use a Digital Calendar
In the 21st century, most people have some type of digital calendar that they depend on. Whether it’s Google Calendar, a special app, or the calendar that came built-in to your phone, you can use it to set reminders and add to it quickly, sometimes from different devices. If you are in the habit of checking this type of time management system frequently and you know it works for you, then put it to use. Set up reminders hours or days before various legal deadlines.
One caveat: If you forget to set up a reminder and you aren’t in the habit of checking your calendar frequently, then you could easily miss something. You might not hear the chime or your phone’s battery could die, leaving you without your handy calendar. A paper calendar is a good backup if you aren’t 100 percent comfortable using only your digital calendar.
Develop Good Habits For Legal Deadlines
If you are already a naturally organized person, keeping track of legal deadlines will likely come fairly easily to you. If, however, you tend to have difficulty keeping all of your obligations in order, then developing better habits can help. First, if you have a lawyer or are working with a legal resource center, ask specific questions so you understand your legal deadlines.
Get into the habit of checking your calendar, in whatever form you use, regularly. During the times when you have a lot of legal deadlines coming up, check it at least weekly. Then you can add anything that needs to be done to your weekly planner. If you don’t usually use a planner, consider checking it daily to help keep you on track.
Find a good organization method to keep track of paperwork. Having documents going missing will raise your stress level exponentially, particularly as a deadline gets closer. If necessary, invest in file cabinets and folders and spend some time working on your overall organization system if that’s what’s making your scheduling and deadlines most difficult.
Practice Damage Control
What should you do if you miss a deadline? While it’s not good to make a habit out of missing legal deadlines, it might happen once. If it does, try not to panic. Call your legal resource center or your lawyer to explain the situation and ask for advice. You can also call the court to find out what you can do. Sometimes, it will just be a matter of getting in your documents as soon as possible. Other times, appointments and court dates might need to be rescheduled and you might need to pay a fine. If you do miss legal deadlines, reevaluate your system so you can identify where you went wrong and make a plan to not let it happen again.
Keeping track of your legal deadlines can seem stressful and overwhelming, but remember that learning the strategies necessary to get everything under control will actually serve you well in other areas of your life. For example, once you learn how to juggle court dates and paperwork, you might find that it’s simpler to keep track of deadlines and documents needed at work. Having your paperwork organized will make bill-paying and tax-filing easier, too. Take some time to figure out which time-management and organizational techniques will work best for you to keep everything in order; it will be time well spent! There is always family law help available if you need it as well in order to help manage your case.