Gavel Gamut By Jim Redwine


Gentle Reader, you may recall last week’s column that set out the general philosophy of the Posey Circuit Court: “Talking is better than fighting”. Or, more generally, resolving conflicts instead of exacerbating them is what courts should do and the earlier the better.

Over twenty years ago my staff and I were searching for ways to ease the pain of Posey County families involved in divorce cases. At that time, my court reporter Synda Waters had the main responsibility for domestic relations matters in the Posey Circuit Court. With Synda’s help and the input of the rest of the court staff we initiated the procedure we still use today to attempt to assuage the fear, anger and frustration of couples who managed to once fall in love but for myriad reasons must now apply to the Court to untangle themselves.

The most salient feature we noted in many of these cases was people refused to talk to one another. Pride, disgust, jealousy, etc., etc., etc., prevented once loving couples from communicating with each other and, therefore, from any real chance of solving their problems.

Other sticking points were often lack of money and almost every case took too long. We decided we needed a faster, cheaper, less traumatic system of getting divorcing couples to where they could get on with their new lives even though they might still be tethered to their old ones, say for example, because of children or ongoing businesses.

We knew that statistically practically every court case resulted in some form of settlement. So we sought a procedure that would help couples settle their cases by themselves inexpensively and as close as possible to when the case was filed. Talking to one another at the beginning of the case as opposed to avoiding contact until later during an expensive and lengthy trial appeared to us to offer a better opportunity to set aside pride and discuss problems. The court-ordered Pre-pre-trial method was born.

Couples who had ceased communicating during their marriage were encouraged and facilitated by the Court to meet and attempt to resolve their conflicts. What we found was that once couples discussed their problems, often with the help of a court-appointed mediator, they could usually settle their case on their own. This simple, inexpensive procedure usually results in cases being resolved, children being better cared for, money being saved and families being able to maintain civil relationships even after the divorce.

A similar procedure is employed in most cases in the Posey Circuit Court although, of course, not every case is settled early and sometimes problems never get solved. However, I suggest Posey County is a more pleasant place for all of us to live when people with what they may have once thought were intractable problems sit down and work them out on their own.

As I have occasionally explained to warring couples who find it difficult to talk to one another and instead decide to come into Court spoiling for a fight, they can either have some stranger, me for example, decide their futures or they can do it themselves quicker, cheaper and better.

For more Gavel Gamut articles go to: