By definition, this is the process in which legal action is taken to resolve a dispute. Typically, someone will file a summons and petition and, at times, additional moving papers in court seeking some form of relief. Then, the other side will respond. Usually once the legal case begins, there is an exchanging of information either informally or formally. This is otherwise known as the discovery period.
After discovery is completed, most courts require the parties to attend a settlement conference to determine if the case may be resolved before trial. If the parties are unable to reach a settlement, the litigation continues to a trial.
Near or on the day of trial, one or both parties often make settlement offers, in the hope of avoiding court proceedings (which are often costly and protracted). Litigation ends if a settlement is reached. However, if not, a trial will commence. In family law and juvenile dependency proceedings, the trials are conducted by a judge and not a jury.
During a trial both parties present relevant and admissible evidence that will help to prove to the trier of fact (the judge) the truth of their positions. If the moving petitioner makes a convincing case, the respondent may seek to settle the case immediately. On the other hand, if the petitioner presents a weak case, the respondent may ask the court to dismiss the case. If the trial proceeds to a conclusion, the judge must decide which party prevails.
Once the Court makes a final decision, the losing party has the right to file a timely appeal.