How many back and forth claims and counterclaims are allowed in a child custody battle?
Here’s one way to count (I’ll use the jurisdiction where I practice divorce and family law (Utah) as an example):
A child custody case (whether that be a divorce, a paternity action, or just a custody case) is commenced with a complaint or a petition filed with the court.
The response to a complaint or petition can be made by an answer or “answer and counterclaim”. The difference between an answer and an “answer and counterclaim” is that an an answer is a respondent’s first pleading that usually consists of denying the petitioner’s allegations and articulating the defendant’s defenses (Black’s Law Dictionary (11th ed. 2019)). An answer and counterclaim consists of an answer, plus a claim for relief against the petitioner (also termed counter petition, counteraction, or countersuit) (Id.).
The “reply” is the petitioner’s response to the respondent’s counterclaim. It usually consists of denying the respondent’s counterclaim allegations and articulating the petitioner’s defenses to the counterclaim.
And that’s the limit: 1) complaint or petition; 2) answer or answer and counterclaim. And if a counterclaim is filed, it is followed by 3) a reply to the counterclaim. You can’t file anything else as a means of asserting a cause of action, UNLESS you file (assuming you are allowed to file) an “amended” complaint/petition, answer, counterclaim, or reply.
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