Let's say and your spouse have decided to end your marriage. Let's say you have been able to sit down and work out all of the details -- where the children will live, how much time they will spend with both parents, who gets what property or debt, who gets the ceramic kitten collection, and who gets Aunt Sally's necklace she left to the two of you.
What if I told you that unless you filed for divorce and served the other party at least 90 days ago, you have to wait? Despite the fact that you both know things are finished. Despite the fact that you were able to come to an agreement that is the best possible agreement for your children, for your family.
This a reality that many people face. In Iowa, you must wait 90 days from the date that the opposing party was served with (or accepted service of) original notice of a petition for dissolution of marriage to get your final decree. (Iowa Code §598.19) There are rarely exceptions made for emergency or necessity, but each judge seems to vary on what exactly they consider an "emergency" or "necessity."
At a recent meeting of the task force that is working on reforming family law case processing in the State of Iowa, there was resounding support for the abolition of the 90 day waiting period. It was brought to our attention that some members of the legislature would not wish to make divorce any "easier." Let's talk about this.
Divorce is not easy on anyone. Many times the parties and their children are better off in the end, but there is a lot of turmoil for everyone involved as the process unfolds. This is true even if the adults in the situation are getting along well. Wouldn't it be beneficial to everyone involved if the court system listened to the needs of the parties? Wouldn't it be better for people to be allowed to move on when they have recognized a need to do so? Wouldn't it reduce the impact on children of divorce to have a schedule that the parents have sat down and determined will work for their family sooner rather than later? They say time heals all wounds, but I have seen in dissolution cases that time after the decree is entered heals all wounds. Until then, things are very raw and fresh in people's minds and making them wait can sometimes cause further breakdown in family relationships.
For now, we will have to continue to tell our clients to hurry up and wait even though their case, in all reality, should be done.
After a meeting, I had the opportunity to sit down and speak with a District Court Judge on Tuesday, which is something that is increasingly more difficult to do now that we do not have to physically be present in a specific county courthouse to file a document in that county.
EDMS, or the electronic data management system, has been great to allow me to operate my practice no matter where I am, no matter the time of day. I can file a pleading or document at 11:30 at night if I'd like, from the comfort of my couch, while wearing pajamas. Or at 7:15 while waiting for my kids to wake up in the morning. It works well.
However, this means that unless I have a hearing, I do not travel to the rural county courthouses. When I first started in the practice of law, my former boss brought me around every week to introduce me to people. I met judges, clerks of court, court reporters and court attendants, and importantly, colleagues. I have not chatted with many attorneys lately in the gallery of the courtroom or a hallway to find out about what they do outside of their lawyer jobs. I have not talked about how a judge's weekend went, or asked a clerk about their kids. It makes it more challenging to connect with people on more than a superficial level, and to know what to expect from the bench and opposing counsel when the day comes that you have a trial.
So if you are a new attorney in rural practice, the onus is on you to get out there and introduce yourself to people. Although I am not a new attorney, I find myself needing to get out and shake hands. To let people know that I am here. I believe it is a vital part of rural practice. Here's to networking!
Everyone comes up with resolutions this time of year, memorializing their grand intentions to improve their lives or the world in some way. For 2016, it is looking like I do not need to resolve anything because I am going to be living it.
I am looking forward this year to setting my own pace, answering to myself and to my clients, and determining what my family's future holds. I am looking forward this year to building my presence in my community, where we have chosen to raise our children and make our home. I am looking forward this year to striking a balance in my life, and to watching my children grow and learn. I am looking forward this year to helping my clients find peace and move on with their lives, plan for their futures, and protect their families.
Coming from a firm, I have been given the incredible opportunity to observe and learn, to try my hand at many things, and to begin to narrow my focus to provide the best possible service to my clients. I have been extremely lucky to learn from amazing mentors, and I truly cannot wait to make this new beginning!
2016 is going to be a big year -- one for the books. Happy New Year!
A blawg about solo, general and rural practice.
Melissa S. Larson is a solo practitioner in Greenfield, Iowa. She has a general practice, and offers mediation and collaborative law services. Melissa is a mother, wife, daughter, sister, grand-daughter, cousin, niece, aunt, friend, attorney, photographer, writer, student, teacher, and wanderer. She loves Gilmore Girls and Dr. Pepper, and knows far too many song lyrics.
"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined." -- Henry David Thoreau
"Live, travel, adventure, bless, and don't be sorry." -- Jack Kerouac
"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in service to others." -- Mohandas K. Gandhi
© 2019 Melissa S. Larson, P.C.