Law Tips: Family Law

Paternity From A To Z

Beyond the appearances, pleadings and proposed orders….practicing Paternity Law comes down to being ready, being civil and being realistic. Master Commissioner Marie Kern, Marion Circuit Court, Paternity Division, Indianapolis and Andrew Bloch, Beasley & Gilkison, Muncie, offer this relevant, sound advice in their ICLEF presentation on “Paternity From A To Z.” I am pleased to have permission to share a portion of that counsel here at Law Tips.

Hearings:
Be prepared. Juvenile dockets are some of the heaviest in the nation. Hearing settings are at a premium. Being prepared allows your case to be heard in the time allotted. When you request hearings, be mindful of how much time you need. Don’t request a thirty minute hearing if the hearing can’t be done in thirty minutes. If you need more time, be expected to explain why you need the amount of time you need. Preparation also includes pre-marking exhibits and having appropriate copies. File any documents required by local rule before the hearing, so that the Court has the opportunity to review them prior to the case.  Most preliminary hearings are only set for 30 minutes, so prepare accordingly.

Communicate with the opposing party prior to hearing. Even one or two stipulated issues can make a hearing go more smoothly.  If you need to speak to the Court before the hearing, communicate that with opposing counsel and make sure you arrive early.  Attorney-only conferences chip into your hearing time.

Be sure to take notes, especially when the court makes a ruling. It is likely the moving party will be asked to draft the order for the court. If you are asked to submit an order, do confer with opposing counsel prior to the submission to the court.

Civility:
In this day of reality television, it is important to remind clients that a court hearing is not like what they see on Judge Judy or some other “court” program. Outbursts by any of the parties or attorneys are not tolerated. In addition, be civil to opposing counsel, the judge, and the staff.  You will be working with many of these people on multiple cases at a time for many years to come.

Client Control:
Be realistic and be reasonable. Clients come to you to get sound legal advice. If you set up realistic expectations with your clients at the beginning, it can help set the tone with the court. Part of being reasonable is being up to date on current case law. It does your client no good and wastes court time if you do not understand the moving parts of your case. Another important point to keep in mind is that even though you can file a motion, it doesn’t always mean you should. Litigants often have unreasonable expectations and want unrealistic relief. It is your duty to rein them in before they get to court. At the end of the day, your reputation is on the line with the court and opposing counsel.

Thanks again to Commissioner Kern and Andrew Bloch for providing these practice tips. Their additional paternity hot topics, such as supervised parenting time, cash medical support orders and private health insurance are included in ICLEF’s “Essentials of Family Law” seminar. To view the upcoming Video Replays, the Online/On Demand Video or purchase the e-Publication of “Essentials of Family Law”Click here.

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