Thursday, October 25, 2007

Pretrial conferences and stealing an idea from the English

For some time I have toyed with using pre-trial conferences in my family law cases. Indiana's Rules of Trial Procedure 16 controls the procedure of a pre-trial conference. Let me quote the rule and I think its usefulness becomes apparent:

(A) When Required - Purpose. In any action except criminal cases, the court may in its discretion and shall upon the motion of any party, direct the attorneys for the parties to appear before it for a conference to consider:
(1) the simplification of the issues;
(2) the necessity or desirability of amendments to the pleadings;
(3) the possibility of obtaining admissions of fact and of documents which will avoid unnecessary proof;
(4) a limitation of the number of expert witnesses;
(5) an exchange of names of witnesses to be called during the trial and the general nature of their expected testimony;
(6) the desirability of using one or more types of alternative dispute resolution under the rules therefor;
(7) the desirability of setting deadlines for dispositive motions in light of the date set for trial; and
(8) such other matters as may aid in the disposition of the action.
I originally thought the rule had applications for custody cases. They take a lot of time, the factual issues subtle, and delay is costly in many ways.

Then I found Leave your ego at the courtroom door on the Family Lore blog. The following got me thinking about using pre-trial conferences with cases involving property divisions.
"For those that don't know (which includes everyone who has only previously read about/heard the story in the sensationalist media), the objective of an FDR is for the parties to use their best endeavours to reach agreement, with the assistance of a District Judge. FDRs take place in most financial/property proceedings ancillary to divorce (unless, of course, a settlement has already been reached) and they have a very high success rate, preventing most cases from going to a final, contested, hearing."
After all, 16(C)(5) requires the lawyers to "fully discuss and explore the possibility of a compromise settlement.

Not that using this procedure replicates what appears to be a more formal method used in England but I think we have a means to approximate the result.

Also, FDR stands for "Financial Dispute Resolution Appointment" and does not appear connected with any former president of the United States.

(Thanks to Judith's Divorce Blog for leading me to Family Lore).

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