Do I need a Court Reporter for my Divorce Proceedings?

 Posted on June 05, 2024 in Divorce

Blog ImageWhile it is almost always beneficial for individuals to reach an agreement without the Court’s involvement, for those who have a spouse or party on the other side of their case who is unreasonable and unwilling to reach an equitable agreement — their only option is to take their case to hearing or trial. As you begin to prepare for a hearing or trial with your attorney, it’s important to discuss with your counsel as to how your trial or hearing will be recorded and memorialized. Many counties such as DuPage, Will and Kendall County will provide an automatic electronic recording (CourtSmart) of the record of your hearing or trial without the necessity of a Court Reporter. However, if you have a hearing or trial in other countries such as Kane or Cook County, Illinois, then you will have to hire and bring your own Court Reporter to your scheduled hearing as these counties do not have an automatic recording of the record.

The cost of a Court Reporter can be expensive and overwhelming, but if you are going into a trial or hearing that will determine important terms that will drastically impact your life, it is always in your best interest to obtain a Court Reporter. In the case that your trial or hearing is completed and the Judge in your case issues a ruling or Judgment that is not supported by the evidence at trial, a transcript of your hearing or trial will be necessary to obtain in order for your attorney to try and correct the trial judge’s decisions with the appellate court or via a motion to reconsider. The transcript of your hearing or trial “preserves the record,” meaning that the transcript creates a clear account of your proceedings for the appellate court to review. If the appellate court does not have a clear record to review, then the appellate court is extremely likely to rely on the trial court’s original decision on your case—leaving you stuck with terms that are not in your favor.

If you or your attorney conducted a trial without a Court Reporter, and you need to create a record for the appellate court, pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 323(c), your attorney will need to prepare a Bystander’s Report. A Bystander’s Report is a report of your case that “may include evidence, oral rulings of the trial judge, a brief statement of the trial judge of the reasons for his decision, and any other proceedings that the party submitting it desires to have incorporated in the record on appeal.” Rule 323 - Report of Proceedings, Ill. Sup. Ct. R. 323 Essentially, if you are in a position where you need to create a transcript for your record on appeal, your attorney will need to draft a lengthy report of what happened at your hearing or trial. This can be a long and tedious process since your attorney will have to rely on their notes and recollections from your trial. Once your attorney has finalized a draft of this report, they will exchange it with the opposing party’s attorney, and then the proposed Bystander’s Report will have to be presented and certified by the trial court. If the trial court reviews the Bystander Report and determined that the proposed Bystander’s Report is not consistent with their recollection of the trial, then the trial court does have the discretion to make changes or additions to the Bystander’s Report, and sometimes the trial court can even go as far as refusing to certify the Bystander’s Report. While the likelihood of the trial court refusing to certify a Bystander’s Report is low, this is still a risk and an expense that you and your attorney should consider.

The cost of going to trial or hearing can create a financial burden for parties, and adding in the cost of a Court Reporter can feel even more overwhelming. However, the cost of obtaining a Bystander’s Report that is certified by the Court can also be extremely expensive and time consuming, so the decision of whether you should obtain a Court Reporter should be discussed at length with your attorney. When you have a hearing or trial that will impact how you live the rest of your life, whether that be how much time you spend with your children, or even how much money you are provided each month in financial support, creating a record of your trial or hearing is of paramount importance in making sure your rights are protected.

In many cases, simply the presence of a Court Reporter can hold the Judge more accountable. When the Judge is aware that what they are saying is being transcribed and could be reviewed in the future by other attorneys, judges or the appellate court, they are more likely to follow the letter of the law. They are also generally more respectful and courtesy as well as detailed in their findings and rulings.

If you are in a position where you preparing for trial, or even if you have finished a trial without a Court Reporter, and you have questions about the most optimal steps you can take to protect your rights as a parent or a married person, please contact the attorneys at McSwain Nagle Giese & Rapp, P.C. so you can work with an attorney to formulate a personalized plan and strategy for your trial or appeal.

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