While many people may not formally marry in a church or be married by a member of the clergy, the one constant in a divorce proceeding or paternity case is you cannot untangle a union or “divide” children. For this reason, divorce is often a combination of therapy, law, and the passage of time. For this reason, divorce cases, paternity cases or matters raised after the divorce or establishment of paternity often take a long time to get into court and go to trial.
That said, and unlike many litigants’ expectations based on other cases, they have the belief the court will rule at the end of a hearing,1 even if the trial was several days long. Most judges after hearing a divorce or paternity case or modification matter may take a significant amount of time to rule on a complex case (most cases involving children are complex cases by nature). The waiting period before receiving the ruling is called “taking the matter under advisement”. If you understand this going into a hearing, you can mentally prepare yourself that it may take a long time to receive the judge’s decision. Do you really want a judge to rush a ruling? Can they?
Technically, the judge has to set a hearing within thirty (30) and rule within thirty (30) days under the Indiana Rules of Trial Procedure, namely rule 53.1(A):
“In the event a court fails for thirty (30) days to set a motion for hearing or fails to rule on a motion within thirty (30) days after it was heard or thirty (30) days after it was filed, if no hearing is required, upon application by an interested party, the submission of the cause may be withdrawn from the trial court judge and transferred to the Supreme Court for appointment of a special judge.”
Failure to rule and then acting on this failure is commonly referred to by attorneys as the “lazy judge” motion.2 However, do you really want a “fast” ruling or would you prefer a thoughtful and precise ruling? When you think back to how the marriage was never meant to be broken, and the judge has to break this marriage, is the speed worth it? Maybe. This is a serious strategy discussion to have with your attorney.
In addition, the ruling can take much longer if you seek special findings under Indiana Rule of Trial Procedure 52(A). Special Findings allow you to reargue the case by setting forth what evidence the trial court should rely on and what it should discount in written format. Again, this gives you another chance to argue the merits of your case and can be a powerful tool to assist you in prevailing on some or all your issues.
If Special Findings are requested, “. . .The court shall allow and may require the attorneys of the parties to submit to the court a draft of findings of fact and conclusions thereon which they propose or suggest that the court make in such a case.”3 The Court’s time for ruling (i.e., the thirty  days to rule) by agreement of the parties will not begin to run until after the court receives proposed Special Findings.
Ordinarily, a court allows parties thirty (30) to ninety (90) days to submit proposed Special Findings. In cases where there are many issues and/or a lengthy trial, proposed Special Findings are invaluable and may help you prevail on some or all your issues as, again, you effectively get to reargue the case. Thus, this increases the time the court has from the closure of the evidence (i.e., the end of the trial) to the time it takes the Court to rule. Do you want proposed Special Findings? This too is a very complex strategy call. Proposed Special Findings also changes the standard of review on appeal and make it easier to appeal issues to the Indiana Court of Appeals.
Are special findings an appropriate legal tool to request in your domestic case? This too is a strategy decision to make with your counsel. Special Findings typically delay ruling on any divorce, paternity, or post-divorce or paternity matter for a significant time, as well as all other domestic matters. Thus, and again, special findings will delay the time before you receive a ruling in your case. As a general matter, divorce cases take much longer than the statutory sixty (60) days to get ready and go to court.
We hope you find this information helpful in understanding how long it may take a divorce court to rule in your case after it receives all the evidence. Remember, you are asking the court to unwind or untangle something never intended to be separated. We hope you find this blog educational and helpful to your understanding of the law and how long it may take a court to rule on your domestic case (and all the strategy considerations)—this will make you a more educated legal consumer. This blog was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Associates, P.C. and is provided as educational material, not specific legal advice. It is an advertisement.