Samurai wielding sword.

Man Requests Trial by Combat in Child Custody Case

Our blog does not typically report on an out-of-state case, but then again, this is an unusual case, with one party requesting a highly unusual form of dispute resolution. The Des Moines Register reports that 40 year-old David Ostrom, who believed he had been “legally destroyed” by his ex-wife’s attorney has tried a new approach. He filed a motion asking an Iowa domestic relations judge to approve trial by combat so he could meet his ex and her attorney “on the field of battle where (he) will rend their souls from their corporal bodies.”

The pen is mightier than the sword.

Edward Bulwer-Lytton

No word on whether trial by combat is an authorized means of dispute resolution in Iowa, but it most assuredly is not on the approved list in Colorado! Nor in New York, apparently.

Trial by combat is not approved dispute resolution mechanism.

Reading between the lines, I’m guessing the father has anger issues, problems with authority, and I’m really going to go out on a limb, and surmise that the mother has alleged he engaged in abuse or domestic violence. While I have no first-hand knowledge of this, a request ift his nature would seem to fit the profile of a “problem client”, and the article does mention that the mother’s attorney is seeking to “suspend [father’s] visitation rights and order him to undergo a court-ordered psychological evaluation.”

The father’s request highlights the importance of having an attorney for a “sanity check” before you file something. If the guy’s sanity or anger is already at issue, this request completely vindicates whatever concerns his ex-wife has raised in her pleadings. This request will not help the father’s parenting case, and a judge is very likely to agree that the father has serious problems.

The judge has not yet responded to this unusual dispute resolution motion, but smart money says there will be no trial by combat, and the father just destroyed whatever credibility he hoped to have on the underlying child custody matter. The father would have been well-served by reading up on how to behave in family law court – top of the (unspoken) list is to avoid insane requests.

Updates – Still No Trial By Combat!

ADDENDUM 3/12/2020. The father’s motion made an impression on the court and not in a positive way. Unsurprisingly, the Iowa domestic relations judge did not grant his request for this creative dispute resolution, but instead restricted his parenting time, and ordered a psychological evaluation. The judge was surprisingly understated in his ruling, however:

“To some extent, David’s feelings concerning the outcome of the dissolution trial and what has transpired afterward, are understandable. Unfortunately, how he has dealt with those feelings is very concerning to this court.”

ADDENDUM 5/11/2020. The father keeps digging himself a deeper hole. The psych test concluded that the father is not insane, just angry, and has an “adjustment disorder with mixed emotional features. Father, undeterred, has filed a motion asking the court to order the mother and her lawyer to undergo sanity testing. His spin on the evaluation was “It essentially says I’m not crazy, I just don’t like being denied access to my children”

My crystal ball says these requests will not only be denied as well, but they will further damage the father’s child custody chances.

ADDENDUM 7/24/2020. I’ve checked in vain for any follow-up, but nothing has been reported since the father’s may motion seeking psychological evaluations for the mother and her lawyer, including the outcome of those motions. Perhaps the father wised up and stopped filing frivolous motions, so the case is no longer newsworthy?

Alternative Dispute Resolution in Colorado Family Law Cases

While litigation is sometimes the only way to resolve a domestic relations dispute, Colorado law requires litigants to try to resolve their cases through negotiation first, before having a hearing, And for parties serious about trying to resolve disputes, there are a variety of “alternative dispute resolution” options available, including a:

  • Settlement Conference, where all parties and counsel get together to discuss the case.
  • Mediation, where a neutral third party attempts to resolve disputes by going back and forth between rooms where the litigants are.
  • Arbitration, where the parties agree a third party can impose settlement in lieu of going to court.
  • Private Judge,

There are probably others that don’t come immediately to mind, such as private counseling, church-sponsored sessions, etc.

Missing from this list, however, is “Trial by Combat.” And while the attorneys at Graham.Law will go the extra mile for a client, that does NOT include engaging in physical battle with Samurai swords, or any other weapons other than the metaphorical pen (which is mightier than the sword anyway!)

dispute resolution

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