(1) Generally. Informal Family Law Trials (IFLT) may be held to resolve all issues in original actions or modifications for dissolution of marriage, paternity, parenting plans, child support, and non-parental custody.
(2) How a case is set for Informal Family Law Trial. The parties must state in writing at the close of an unsuccessful settlement conference, on a form provided by the Court, whether they elect to proceed with an IFLT or a traditional trial. The Court may refuse to allow the parties to utilize the IFLT procedure at any time and may also direct that a case proceed with a traditional trial even after an IFLT has commenced, but before the Court has ruled. A party who has previously agreed to proceed with an IFLT may file a motion to opt out of the IFLT provided that this motion is filed not less than seven calendar days before the week of trial. Additionally, a party who has previously requested a traditional family law trial may file a motion to opt out of the traditional trial provided that this motion is filed not less than seven calendar days before the week of trial. This motion shall be scheduled on the judge’s motion calendar. This time period may be modified or waived by the Court upon a showing of good cause. A change in the type of trial to be held may result in a change in the trial date.
(b) Procedure. The IFLT will be conducted as follows:
(1)At the settlement conference, for an IFLT the parties will be asked to affirm that:
(A)They understand the rules and procedures of the IFLT process; and,
(B)They are agreeing to this process freely and voluntarily and that they have not been threatened or promised anything for agreeing to the IFLT process.
(C)The case does not need more than one day to be heard.
(2)The Court may ask the parties or their lawyers for a brief summary of the issues to be decided.
(3)The moving party will speak to the Court under oath concerning all issues in dispute. The party is not questioned by lawyers, but may be questioned by the Court to develop evidence required by any statute or rule.
(4)The Court will ask the moving party (or the moving party’s attorney if the party is represented) whether there are any other areas the party wishes the Court to ask about. The Court will ask questions of the identified areas if requested and relevant.
(5)The process aboveis then repeated for the other party.
(6) If a Guardian ad Litem was appointed (GAL), the GAL will be questioned under oath by the Court.
(7)Expert reports will be entered into evidence as the Court’s exhibit. If either party requests and arranges, the expert will be sworn and then questioned by counsel, the parties, and/or the Court.
(8)The parties may offer any documents they wish for the Court to consider. The Court will determine what weight, if any, to give each document. The Court may order the record to be supplemented. Letters or other submissions by the parties’ children that are intended to suggest custody or parenting preferences will not be considered.
(9)The parties will then be offered the opportunity to respond briefly to the testimony of the other party.
(10) The parties (or a party’s attorney if the party is represented) will be offered the opportunity to make a brief closing argument.
(11) At the conclusion of the case, the Court shall give a ruling. The Court may take the matter under advisement, but best efforts will be made to issue prompt rulings.
(12) The Court retains jurisdiction to modify these procedures as justice and fundamental fairness requires.
[Adopted effective September 1, 2017. Amended effective January 13, 2020.]