Either spouse’s lawyer may decide to question the other spouse about issues in the case.
To do this, the lawyer for the requesting spouse must serve the other with a notice setting out where and when the questioning will take place. Typically, questioning is conducted at a lawyer’s or court reporter’s office and is transcribed. Once questioning is complete, either spouse may request a transcript from the reporter. The transcript can be filed with the court so that it can be read into the trial record as evidence. There are fees for using a court reporter and ordering a transcript.
Questioning can be very helpful in settling outstanding issues in a case. Once the lawyers have some of the evidence that would be introduced at trial, it gives them a better idea of how a judge might decide the facts in their case. Often, this brings the spouses closer to resolving their outstanding issues. Also, questioning can result in a spouse agreeing to provide further information.
Dispute Resolution Officer (DRO)
There is an increasing number of Motions to Change in family law cases. Motions to Changes are the Court process started when a spouse or former spouse wants to change an Order or Agreement already made by the couple. This makes it difficult to ensure timely and effective first case conferences.
To address the problem, a select group of established family lawyers are appointed to be Dispute Resolution Officers (DROs). Because of this, the first case conferences for all Motions to Change are now heard by the DRO.
DROs provide litigants in family proceedings, with an early evaluation of their case by a neutral third party. This service narrows the issues in dispute and facilitates settlement between the parties.
The power of a DRO has been expanded but, among other things, a DRO is permitted to:
- Hear a Case Conference on a request to change child and spousal support orders, rather than a judge
- Meet with the parties to determine the issues
- Assist in settlement options for the parties, and
- Determine if the case is ready to go before a judge
The DRO does not have authority to write orders, issue orders or award costs, but a judge presiding at a subsequent conference or motion may rely on the DROs report. Also, if the spouses reach an agreement right before a DRO, this agreement can usually be sent to a judge that day to be made into an Order.
After a DRO case conference, sometimes the process moves directly to a settlement conference. But the spouse’s lawyers are allowed to schedule a case conference or hear a motion in front of a judge as the next step.