The Indiana Supreme Court Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure for Public Comment has published proposed rule amendments for public comment. Comments for the proposed amendments are due by March 25, 2011. One rule titled "Rules for Family Proceedings" is particularly interesting. The rule would provide procedures for consolidating multiple case involving the same family with one court/judge.
The rule would apply to cases involving individuals in the same "family", in the broadest sense. It is worth noting that as the Indiana state legislature is considering a constitutional amendment which would ban the recognition of civil unions and anything "substantially similar to marriage", this proposed rule, by definition, would apply to individuals living in a "domestic partnership".
This rule would help the problem of different courts/judges entering orders that affect the same family. For instance, if a guardianship and a divorce proceeding were concurrently pending and involved the same family, this rule would provide procedure for the two (2) actions to be heard by the same court/judge. Presently, this type of consolidation can only occur on motion of one of the parties or the court. Having a more predictable procedure to follow in these circumstances would be a welcome change.
However, with this procedure the parties right to move for a change judge may be limited. The proposed amendment limits the right to seek a change of venue or a change of judge, as follows:
D. Designation by Court of Intent to Use Family Procedures and Change of Judge for Cause. Within fifteen (15) days after notice is sent that a case has been selected to be heard using Family Procedures, a party may object for cause to the designation or selection of a party’s case.
Once notice is sent to the parties that a case has been selected to be heard using Family Procedures, no motion for change of venue from the judge may be granted except to the extent permitted by Indiana Trial Rule 76. A motion for change of venue from the judge in any matters being heard in a court using Family Procedures, or any future cases joined in the court after the initial selection of cases, shall be granted only for cause. If a special judge is appointed, all current and future cases in the court proceeding may be assigned to the special judge.
This proposed amendment would arguably change that presently, pursuant to Indiana Trial Rule 76, in a divorce or paternity case, each party is entitled to one (1) change of judge, without cause, as a matter of right. This is a right commonly used in post-decree modifications and enforcements of custody, parenting time or child support orders. In this regard, the proposed rule amendment would be a significant change to present procedure.
Click here for all of the proposed rule amendments and to comment on the proposed rule.