Informal Family Law Trial Program
Who can participate?
The Informal Family Law Program is available where both parties are self-represented (do not have an attorney).
What types of family law cases are eligible?
Dissolution of marriage with or without children, legal separation, actions for custody, visitation and support between unmarried parents, and modification actions involving custody, visitation, or support.
How does the program work?
When a family law case is commenced, the clerk enters a Family Law Case Requirements Order that provides for the preliminary exchange of information between the parties, the scheduling of a pretrial conference, mandatory child-related programming (Children in the Middle and Iowa Center for Children’s Justice, f/k/a Kids First) and mediation. Specific documentation is to have been completed by the pretrial conference, which is initially scheduled approximately 90 days after filing. The purpose of the pretrial conference is to verify that this documentation (affidavit of financial status, child support guidelines worksheet, Children in the Middle certificate, and Iowa Center for Children’s Justice workshop certificate) have been filed, if applicable, and to identify the contested issues for trial.
Cases that qualify for the informal program (actions where both parties are self-represented and in which there are contested issues) would be identified at the pretrial conference. Those cases that are identified for inclusion in the informal family law trial program would be subject to the same requirement to pursue some form of alternate dispute resolution (ADR); however, this would be in the form of a judge-supervised settlement conference rather than private mediation. These settlement conferences would be scheduled on a separate docket and would take place within 30 days from the pretrial conference. The goal of the settlement conference would be to allow the parties to create a settlement agreement (and parenting plan, where applicable) utilizing the forms for self-represented litigants found in Chapter 17 of the Iowa Court Rules) that would then form the basis for a decree.
Those cases that could not be resolved at settlement conference would be scheduled for trial. These trials would be streamlined in nature, with the parties being limited in the number of witnesses and the questioning of witnesses being done by the trial judge.
Additional materials with more detailed information regarding the particulars of the Fifth District Informal Family Law Program are available below.