Iowa Task Force Unveils New Priorities to Reform Family Law

The Iowa Supreme Court Family Law Case Processing Reform Task Force recently submitted its final report to the Iowa Supreme Court, concluding a year-long study of the family law court system in Iowa.  

The Task Force report includes a comprehensive list of recommendations for the Iowa Supreme Court’s consideration, some of which are intended for immediate consideration during the 2016 administrative term:

  • Provide for an optional, informal, and expedited Informal Family Law Trial, modeled on the Deschutes County, OR, Informal Domestic Relations Trial.
  • Develop a statewide mediation program for family law cases.
  • Establish a uniform, statewide requirement to conduct temporary custody hearings in the presence of the parties.I
  • Identify barriers to using and encourage the use of unbundled legal services.

Other Task Force recommendations are of a longer-term nature, including:

  • Develop uniform standards for parent education programs.
  • Make forms and instructions more user friendly.
  • Implement a parenting coordinating process that would assist high conflict, post-decree families.
  • Identify potential community partners to study models of self-help centers.

Finally, the Task Force identified several areas as potentially warranting further study, including individual case assignment, multiple case processing tracks, and standards for child custody evaluations.  Any efforts to reform domestic case processing in Iowa courts, according to the Task Force, should be guided by the following primary goals:

  1. Greater simplicity, transparency, and uniformity in domestic case processing.
  2. Expanded access to family law information and resources.
  3. Increased quality alternatives to traditional litigation to resolve family law disputes. 

Iowa’s Supreme Court created the Task Force at the request of the Iowa State Bar Association, and the Task Force mandate included: identifying strengths and weaknesses in the state domestic relations system; exploring innovative programs in other jurisdictions; and proposing new procedures, where necessary, to best address the needs of Iowans involved in family law matters.

IAALS supported the work of the Task Force and HFI Advisory Committee member William J. Howe, III, provided direct assistance to the Task Force at various stages of its work.