Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Henry County: Who Prepares the Decree of Dissolution

I suspect many will find themselves either puzzled or amused by this local rule. One might think the judges over in New Castle do not have much to do, but let me say this rule is neither a waste of time nor as silly as it might appear:

(D) DECREE PREPARED SUBSEQUENT TO HEARING. A decree prepared following a hearing at the direction of the court shall be prepared by Counsel for the Petitioner and submitted to counsel for the Respondent who shall both sign the Decree “Approved as to Form.”
I might even say this local rule epitomizes a local rule: somewhat of a detail that the Indiana Supreme Court would leave out of the Indiana Rules of Trial Procedure but instead leaves to local discretion,

What is so good about this Rule? I see two good things, but it will take some words to explain its utility.

The first and most simplest thing giving the Rule utility is that it means Respondent's lawyer gets to make sure that Petitioner's lawyer neither omitted nor added anything to the court's decision. More often than not, the trial judge makes an oral decision from the bench and the lawyers are left to writing down what the judge says. I would think everyone can see where errors can creep into a Decree with that sort of situation. (These problems are less so now that we have everything recorded and the recording are pretty easy to access).

My second reason for liking this Rule requires me to report on a case from last Fall from Anderson. It was an enforcement hearing and opposing counsel was an older local attorney. A deed went unprepared, the Decree was vague on who was to prepare, and opposing counsel argued that it was customary that my side was to prepare the deed. After twenty-one years of practicing in Madison County, this was the first time that I had ever heard of this custom. The judge agreed with me. With a similar rule here as this Henry County Rule, there would have been no delay in preparing the document, no additional attorney fees, no additional hearing due to an ambiguity in who was to prepare a document.

It does leave me to speculate about what happens when neither side has a lawyer.

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