Family law judges set expectations

By Erik S. Fisk, Whitfield & Eddy

Polk County Family Law Judges met recently with members of the Polk County Bar Association Family Law Committee to address the rules of the road for the fourth floor this year. This year, Judge Hutchison will be in courtroom 412, and Judge Hanson will be in 413.

EDMS

Not surprisingly, the judges talked at length about family law practice changes after the adoption of Iowa’s Electronic Documents Management System (EDMS). First, many attorneys had questions about when to file and when to contact the Judge in our e-filed world.

Both Judges stressed that attorneys can still come to the courtroom in person or call the Judge.  For matters that are an emergency, attorneys can file it as an emergency through EDMS, and the clerk will generally process it within that day. Motions to Continue and quirky Decrees can also still be brought to the judges in person.

Some attorneys asked about how long they should wait to call a Judge if they do not see an Order approving an e-filed Stipulation of Decree. The Judges encouraged attorneys to give the Court about 7-10 days before contacting chambers.

Pre-trial conferences

The new pre-trial compliance forms and protocols also have changed. First, if both parties are represented by counsel, they can exchange the documents required under the Family Law Requirements Order and certify completion of the pre-trial requirements in advance of the pre-trial deadline.  Once they do so, neither is required to attend.

If even one party is pro se, however, both sides are required to attend the pre-trial conference.

Motions to Continue

The Judges stressed that no parties should assume a Motion to Continue is granted. The proper way to handle a Motion to Continue is to first get the Court to grant the requested continuance and, next get a new date from court administration. Attorneys need not send proposed Orders because the Court has a special template for scheduling deadlines on the docket managing system.

Decrees

In submitting final Decrees, the Judges both indicated that attorneys can still walk them up. For shared physical care arrangements, both Judges will require attorneys to see the Judge personally. Attorneys should be ready to verify for the Court that shared physical care can work if it is requested. To that end, all unique provisions in a Decree should be addressed with the Judge up front.

If a party defaults, the Court will not enter a default Decree unless a hearing is set.

Odds and ends

Neither Judge will require set hours to sign Orders. Both Judges will be willing to waive the 90 days if both parties are represented, especially if the parties are using the collaborative process.  Finally, both Judges asked that attorneys be cognizant of the Court’s time. If you request a 30 minute hearing, you will get 30 minutes.

Thanks to the Judges for taking the time to meet with our members. See you on the fourth floor!