Saturday, January 4, 2014

Presentation of Competing Decrees and Judgment Entries in Contentious Divorces

Some divorces are so contentious that decrees and judgment entries are submitted by both parties, even after the court directed one of the parties to do the drafting. In some cases, following a lengthy bitter contested divorce that was resolved at trial, the blood continues to be spilled over the wording of the orders summarized in competing drafts of the final decree. Despite the parties’ beliefs that the court’s decision set matters out in black and white, motions for clarification are sometimes filed by both sides and competing drafts of the final decree are submitted by the parties setting in writing their different interpretations regarding what the court meant in the court’s detailed decision.

Sample language in notice of presentation of final decree of divorce:

Now comes _______, Defendant, by and through counsel, and respectfully requests that the Court sign the attached Decree of Divorce, as it accurately reflects the Court’s "Date" Decision. The undersigned prepared the attached Decree and forwarded it to opposing counsel via first class mail and email on “Date”. On “Date”, opposing counsel indicated that both parties simply submit their own drafts and let the Court decide.
Sample County Domestic Relations Court Rules:

Excerpt From Warren County Domestic Relations Court Rules As Amended And Effective April 1, 2012.

6.1 Decrees and Judgment Entries in Contested Matters.

B. Disagreement Concerning Documents Prepared by Counsel.
If the prevailing party prepares the necessary document as noted above but opposing counsel objects to the document as to form or because it does not accurately embody the court’s decision, counsel shall indicate objections by affixing the words “subject to objection” under counsel’s signature. Counsel shall then prepare his or her own entry, sign it and mail the original to the prevailing attorney along with the entry previously mailed to him or her by the prevailing attorney. Either or both counsel shall then set the matter for a hearing on the entry as soon as possible. Each attorney must present a draft entry to the Judge/Magistrate at such hearing. The Judge/Magistrate shall approve and file one or the other of the submitted entries or shall prepare and file his/her own entry or decision.

C. Failure to Respond to Draft Documents.
If the prevailing party prepares the necessary document(s) as noted above but opposing counsel fails to respond with approval or objections, or if the prevailing party fails to timely prepare the necessary document(s) as noted above, counsel may file a “Notice of Presentation of Entry” with the court in substantial compliance with DR Form 9 (included in Appendix 4). Such notice shall include the following:

1. Notice to the opposing counsel that the proposed entry will be presented to the court for approval after the expiration of fourteen (14) days from the date of mailing unless the other attorney, within the fourteen days, files a written objection stating the grounds with particularity, attaches his/her own proposed entry and sets the matter for hearing.

2. Failure to file written objections and/or to set a hearing will be construed as acquiescence to the filing of the proponent’s entry.

3. The proposed entry shall be attached to the notice.

If, after the expiration of the fourteen (14) day period, opposing counsel has not filed a written objection, the counsel who drafted the document shall present both the file stamped Notice of Presentation of Entry and the actual proposed entry to the assigned Judge/Magistrate for consideration.

D. Nothing in this rule precludes the Judge/Magistrate from preparing and filing his or her own entry/decision at any time.

The above information is not offered as, and does not constitute, legal advice. The information presumes you are not currently represented by an attorney who knows your specific circumstances. Each divorce has its own unique set of facts and circumstances and is governed by the rules of the Ohio county domestic relations court that has jurisdiction over the divorce.