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What is Voluntary Dismissal?

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  • Written By: Patrick Roland
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2016
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A voluntary dismissal is a legal term referring to a plaintiff revoking a civil suit before any action has taken place. The rules for this procedure differ from country to country, but they generally follow the same course of action. There also are a few ways to have a dismissal if the proceedings already have begun. A terminated lawsuit usually consists of surprisingly little paperwork.

A voluntary dismissal occurs when a civil suit is canceled by the party who brought the case to court, commonly called the plaintiff. In most legal systems, these happen only in a civil procedure. For example, in the United States, there cannot be a voluntary dismissal in a criminal case. There normally are a few rules about when the dismissal can occur. In the U.S., the notice of voluntary dismissal must be submitted before the defendant has taken any action, meaning making a motion or filing an answer.

The paperwork involved in a dismissal generally is a single sheet of paper. It simply states that the case is being withdrawn from consideration. Generally, an attorney needs no more information than the plaintiff and defendant's names, the date, the case number and the plaintiff's signature.

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Many times, a voluntary dismissal is submitted after the defendant has begun taking action. This requires a little more effort but still is generally considered a simple process. The plaintiff's legal team must work with the defendant's team because they both must agree to a dismissal at this stage. In many countries, including as the U.S., there is another simple form that must be filled out to accomplish this task.

After a case has been dismissed, it can be restarted and brought back before a court. Several nations and their legal systems have rules about how many times a civil suit can be dismissed. This prevents a case from being dragged on for an infinite amount of time and provides a fast trial for all parties involved. In the U.S., for example, after a trial has been voluntarily dismissed twice, it cannot be brought back before a judge.

There are many reasons for a terminated lawsuit. Some are dismissed because an out-of-court settlement has been reached between the two parties, and others are dismissed in order to allow the plaintiff's legal team to prepare better and to collect evidence for the trial. No matter what the reason for a dismissal, many legal systems have an established structure and limits to a voluntary dismissal in order to ensure a fair and quick trial.

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