Simplified Court Processes

Simplified trial processes are among the increasing number of in-court solutions that states around the country are implementing to help families get the critical services they need as easily as possible. These programs are especially important for families who are not represented by attorneys, but simplified trial processes also provide an opportunity for attorneys to deliver unbundled legal services.

Honoring Families serves as a resource to state courts seeking to develop, implement, or measure these simplified processes.

Idaho Informal Custody Trial

Parties seeking to try child custody and child support issues in Idaho can opt into an Informal Custody Trial (ICT). The ICT allows litigants in child custody cases to suspend the rules of evidence and the normal question-and-answer format of trial, waive the rules of discovery, and directly present their case, issues, and concerns to the court. In March 2014, the Idaho Administrative Office of the Courts released the results of an evaluation designed to explore the potential advantages and disadvantages of the ICT.

Idaho Rules of Family Law Procedure

The Idaho Rules of Family Law Procedure (IRFLP) went into effect statewide on July 1, 2015, bringing all procedural rules that apply to family law cases into one volume. The IRFLP also sets forth a simpler standard of evidence in order to facilitate the presentation of evidence at trial.  However, if either party prefers, he or she can opt into the full procedures provided for under Idaho Rules of Evidence.

Iowa Family Law Task Force Recommendations

The Iowa Supreme Court Family Law Case Processing Reform Task Force issued a report to the Iowa Supreme Court that contains various recommendations concerning family law case processing in Iowa. Among the recommendations that the Task Force highlighted for Court action during its 2016 administrative term: an optional informal and expedited track for processing family cases, modeled on the Deschutes County, OR, Informal Domestic Relations Trial. According to the Task Force, “[w]hile a rule allowing parties to opt into a more informal trial process may not be significantly different from current practices, it would create greater transparency, better uniformity, and clearer expectations for parties.” In response, the court plans to institute a pilot project in the Seventh Judicial District. The full report contains a host of recommendations for just, efficient, and consistent procedures for Iowans, as well as suggestions for further consideration or research. 

Oregon Informal Domestic Relations Trial

The Deschutes County Circuit Court is serving as a pilot site for an Informal Domestic Relations Trial process (IDRT). Compared to a traditional trial, the IDRT significantly relaxes the rules of evidence and offers parties a potentially shorter trial. The project’s goal is to make the process more accessible to litigants without attorneys, but also to make it more cost-effective for parties to hire attorneys to represent them during the shortened and simplified process. More information about the process is available here.

Alaska Early Resolution Pilot Program

The Early Resolution Program (ERP) began as a pilot project in Anchorage and has since expanded to other courts. For family law cases in which both parties are self-represented, the ERP provides free legal services and mediation, with the goal of reaching resolution. The ERP has shown successes to date, in terms of helping self-represented litigants reach settlement and reducing post-judgment activity.     

Alaska Informal Trials in Domestic Relations Cases

Through Order No. 1826, the Alaska Supreme Court adopted an Informal Trials in Domestic Relations Cases, effective April 15, 2015. This voluntary alternative trial procedure is available to parties seeking to resolve some or all issues in actions for divorce, property division, custody, and child support. The process is also available to parties wishing to modify orders in prior cases.     

Wyoming Expedited Marriage Dissolution Cases

The Wyoming Supreme Court has adopted an Expedited Marriage Dissolution Pilot Program, informed by the work of the Board of Judicial Policy and Administration and the Rule 1 Study Committee. The temporary rules governing the pilot project, effective July 1, 2014, are designed to establish a procedure that “reduces the negative impact of adversarial litigation wherever possible.” The pilot is centered on active case management with pretrial processes tailored to the needs of the case. For cases in which both parties are self-represented, the Expedited Marriage Dissolution Pilot Program includes an informal trial process with relaxed rules of evidence.