By Teresa A. Griffin, Faegre Baker Daniels LLP
Everything is fast and hot in Indianapolis this time of year, and if you have a family law case that you are initiating this month, here are a few tips to make sure you don’t miss a beat in the heat:
1 Your client’s petition for dissolution should be verified. Be sure to include in it all of the remedy requests that your client requires. For example, if you represent the wife and she would like to reinstate her maiden name, don’t forget to include that in your request for relief. Be sure to throw in your requests for support, maintenance, custody and attorneys’ fees and litigation costs if you want to cover all of your bases.
2 Enter into a temporary restraining order. Only certain counties include these in their local rules as automatic. Other counties may require you to show up for a hearing if you don’t enter them by agreement. Temporary restraining orders can help protect your clients from dissipation or disposition of assets during the pendency of the dissolution.
3 Remind your clients that they need to attend all required parenting classes. These vary by county, but are generally required for any decree to be entered in the state of Indiana in a dissolution that involves children.
4 Some parties may know exactly what they want and want to get divorced right away. Remind them that there is a 60-day mandatory waiting period.
5 Do your due diligence. If the parties have assets and/or debts, be sure that you at least provide them with a financial declaration, which is verified, to ensure that you can properly advise them as to the equitable distribution of their marital estate. Due diligence in some cases may require much more extensive discovery. Each case is different and fact-specific.
6 Consider alternative dispute resolution. Mediation resolves many cases here in Indiana and is widespread in its use. Many capable practitioners are registered family law mediators who can also act as mediators in your case. Don’t forget about the option for arbitration. Arbitration in family law can be used for full cases or discreet issues. It can be a handy tool in a case where all issues but one are resolved.
7 In the event that your client is unable to resolve his or her dispute through settlement or alternative dispute resolution, trial is an option. Be sure to know your judge. Differing judges may have differing expectations in his or her courtrooms and you may be able to gather valuable insight from the experiences of your peers or your own past experience to advocate for your client to the best of your ability during a difficult trial.
8 Don’t forget to a file a prompt notice of appeal if and when warranted. Consider a motion to correct error before you do so. In the event that your client has a case that warrants it, appeals must be filed timely and failing to file on time could subject your client to the loss of his or her appeal.
Hopefully these tips get you off to a quick start. Good luck with your case and advocacy for your clients!•
Teresa Griffin is a Partner in the Business Litigation Group at Faegre Baker Daniels LLP. She is a trial attorney, concentrating her family law practice on high net worth dissolution cases involving complex issues related to division of assets and custody, among many others.