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Significant Changes Coming to Paternity Court - Solo Small Firm Practice News

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Solo Small Firm Practice News


Posted on: Jul 19, 2017

The Circuit Court Judge and the judicial officers in the Paternity Division are aware of the ever-increasing demand for hearing time not only for new paternity actions, but also hearings on emergency matters and modifications of existing paternity judgments. In an effort to better serve the litigants and members of the bar, the court is implementing some new changes with the hopes of providing better access and improving the turn around time to resolution. With that in mind, please make note of these changes and take advantage of them whenever possible.

Initial Establishments of Paternity

When filing a new paternity matter, you may waive the requirement for a preliminary hearing and ask for a final hearing instead, as long as you also submit an agreed waiver of preliminary hearing, signed by both parties and counsel, if applicable.

Modifications of Paternity Judgments

Historically, all modifications have been set for preliminary hearings. Recognizing that the attorneys know their cases better than the courts, you have the option of requesting a final hearing and forgoing a preliminary hearing, if you choose. However, in an effort to make sure that the calendars continue to be used productively, you will be required to provide proof of good service upon the opposing party a minimum of two weeks prior to the final hearing. Failure to do so will result in the final hearing date being vacated or reset, so that the docket time may be utilized for emergency matters. If you are forgoing a preliminary hearing, please make sure to specify how much time you will need for your hearing, being realistic as to the number of witnesses to be presented by each side, in order to avoid the need for lengthy bifurcations.

Second Choice Settings

The Marion Circuit Court, Paternity Division has avoided setting second choice hearings in the past, due to the volume of the court and the lack of time available for staff to run down which cases were going and which were not. In an effort to provide greater opportunities for a hearing to take place sooner, you may now request a first and a second choice setting. The second choice setting will be placed on the calendar sooner than the guaranteed first choice setting.

There is a caveat; if you request a second choice setting, you the attorney, will be responsible for contacting the court to determine if the hearing is going or not. The staff will not be responsible for contacting attorneys on second choice settings. This means that it may be the day before a hearing and you may not know if your case is going to go as the second choice, if the first choice setting has not filed a continuance or an agreement is not received until the day of the hearing. This may require you and your client to appear on the day of the second choice setting, prepared to go to trial, with the understanding it may not go that day. Be mindful that after 4:30 p.m., it is unlikely that your email or voicemail will be reviewed until the next day by staff.

Pre-Trial Conference Docket

On a trial basis, the Paternity Division is going to set a pre-trial conference docket. These hearings will be 15 minutes in length and can be requested for a variety of purposes. Having a discovery issue and you need some deadlines established? Ask for a pre-trial conference! Need to determine the appropriate length of time for a final hearing and an order for mediation, but don’t need a preliminary hearing? Ask for a pre-trial conference! These will be available first come, first serve and should be utilized in an effort to help resolve minor issues that may be standing in the way of reaching a final resolution on your case. These are not going to be full-blown hearings, so do not ask for a pre-trial conference if you really need an evidentiary hearing. The Paternity Division is setting three dockets for these, as a test to determine the need and utilization. Those dates are in the mornings on July 28, 2017; August 25, 2017; and September 29, 2017 and will be heard by Chief Magistrate Kern. If it is determined that there is a need for this docket, additional sessions will be scheduled and made available.

Attorney Conference Rooms

The Paternity Division was finally able to finish its much needed and long overdue expansion in April of this year. As a result, the court now has two dedicated areas within the court office that can provide some privacy for you to meet with opposing counsel, away from the distractions of the CCB, when discussing possible resolutions or exchanging discovery prior to hearings. This space also offers parties a space to sit and draft agreements reached on the day of court or a moment of “breakout time” for a lawyer to speak privately with his or her client. These are available first come, first serve. Just ask the court reporter covering your hearing if you may use one and if available, the space is yours to use.

Brown Bag Lunch with the Judicial Officers

On August 16 from noon to 1 p.m., Paternity Court will have a brown bag lunch for attorneys in E118. This will allow attorneys to come in and pose questions to the judicial officers regarding procedural issues only. Obviously, specific questions about cases cannot be addressed. Specific questions about policies, procedures and best practices are all fair game. Feel free to bring your lunch and come for as long as it holds your interest!

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