Importance of Understanding the New Idaho Rules of Family Law Procedure

All court proceedings are normally governed by a set of rules.  For example, there are Rules of Civil Procedure, Rules of Criminal procedure etc.  Prior to January 1, 2013, there were no separate rules governing family law procedure and such matters were generally governed by the rules of civil procedure.  However, given that the Idaho Rules of Family Law Procedure (IRFLP) are now effective statewide, it is extremely important for anyone handling family law cases to thoroughly understand these rules and how these rules work.

The Idaho Rules of Family Law Procedure (IRFLP) first started in the 4th Judicial District of Idaho as a pilot project, effective January 1, 2013. The IRFLP have been effective statewide since July 1, 2015 and are applicable in all cases involving divorce, legal separation, child support, child custody, paternity, all proceedings pursuant to the Domestic Violence Crime Prevention Act, all actions pursuant to the De Facto Custodian Act, and all proceedings, judgments or decrees related to the establishment, modification, or enforcement of orders in such action, except contempt.

Here are some noteworthy differences between the practices in a family law court before and after the adoption of the new rules:

Under the new Rule 401, the parties must make mandatory disclosures of specific information within 35 days after a responsive pleading is filed.  These mandatory disclosures must be made even if there are no requests for disclosure.  However, parties may stipulate to an extension of the deadline (stipulation is where both parties agree), or one party may petition the court by filing a motion for an extension of time to comply with the Rule 401.

The new Rule 504 anticipates the court deciding temporary orders based exclusively on affidavits rather than having lengthy hearings with testimony by the parties and witnesses.  This reliance on affidavits alone makes it extremely important to prepare detailed affidavits containing relevant information supporting the motion for temporary orders.  However, at the time of the hearing on the motion for temporary orders, the judge may decide to set a separate evidentiary hearing so that the parties are allowed to present testimony and call witnesses at an evidentiary hearing.  This is often the case where the issues are complex and the judge may have additional concerns for the health or safety of the children.

The new Rule 102.B, is designed to ‘simplify’ the formal and very technical rules of evidence that ordinarily apply in court proceedings.  However, the rule allows either party to request a strict compliance with the Idaho Rules of Evidence within 30 days after a responsive pleading is filed or within 42 days from the filing of the motion or petition in cases where no responsive pleading is filed, or such date as is established by the judge.  Experienced attorneys frequently request strict compliance with the Idaho Rules of Evidence making it much more difficult for people representing themselves to effectively present evidence in court given the technical nature of the application of the formal Idaho Rules of Evidence.

Idaho Rules of Family Law Procedure are often misunderstood by the pro se litigants (people representing themselves without an attorney). Many people do not know that the Rules of Family Procedure even exist or where to search for these rules (See link to Idaho Rules of Family Law Procedure).  People representing themselves without an attorney will be held by a judge to the same standard of expertise as attorneys and are frequently confounded by these rules.

(Idaho Rules of Family Law Procedure)

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