Iowa’s Seventh Judicial District has been selected to test the new informal trial program for family law matters created in February. In a release on March 1, the Iowa Supreme Court announced the selection of the district for new procedures aimed at expediting the resolution of cases with less complicated circumstances.
The new informal trials can be used for divorces, legal separations, paternity (unmarried parent) cases and modifications of child custody, visitation and support. They relax the rules of evidence, allowing parties to offer testimony or exhibits without objection by the other side. It means the judicial officer presiding over the hearing will question the parties.
The Seventh Judicial District has published a brochure online outlining the full list of changes and providing a detailed description of the benefits of both trial methods. However, if both parties do not agree to an informal trial, a traditional trial will be scheduled.
Attorneys in an informal trial would be limited to stating the issues, answering questions from the judicial officer and providing legal argument at the conclusion of the trial. Reducing an attorney’s involvement is intended to help reduce the cost of representation, while the overall process results in faster resolution for all parties.
Chief District Court Judge Marlita Greve said of the pilot: "We believe this process will improve access to justice for all Iowans. It also responds to the changing demands placed on our judicial system with the increasing number of self-represented parties and the increasing workload of judicial officers."