Settlement Week continues to be a great success for the Delaware County Domestic Relations Court and the families that go through the court system. It is hard for me to believe that we just completed our eighth Settlement Week. (Time goes by so fast.) We conduct Settlement Week two times a year, one week in May and one week in November.
Settlement Week is one of several programs the Domestic Relations Court has created to empower families to resolve their disagreements. Additional programs the court offers families are Co-Parent Coaching, Neutral Evaluations and Mediation.
The Delaware County Domestic Relations Court strives to help families resolve disagreements without having to go to trial. While the court is always the ultimate arbiter of disagreements, in domestic relations cases, there is usually a better way for families to resolve their dispute. Alternatives to trial empower families to take responsibility for their own ideas, solutions and outcomes.
So, what is Settlement Week and how do people benefit from this experience?
During Settlement Week we bring in some of the best, private, domestic relations mediators in central Ohio. Mediators agree to a reduced fee to be part of the program. People with an open court case can request to participate in Settlement Week, or the court selects cases to participate.
Settlement Week results in several positive outcomes. First, families going through the Domestic Relations Court system have their case mediated by some of the best local mediators at a reduced cost. Second, if mediation results in a settlement, the parties’ acknowledge their agreement, under oath, to quickly achieve finality of the case. And, third, if a full settlement is not reached, the mediation often helps parties advance their case to a settlement at a later date, or at the very least, reduces issues for trial.
So, how do I know Settlement Week was successful? Well, let me tell you two reasons. First, this month we had 46% of the cases in Settlement Week reach full agreements to resolve all issues in their case. We also had another 31% of cases reach partial agreement. This results in almost 77% of the cases in Settlement Week reaching full or partial agreements. Also, some of the cases that did not reach full agreements are scheduling additional mediation sessions. Hopefully, they will be able to come to more agreements.
The second reason I know Settlement Week is a success is that other courts are interested in what we have been able to accomplish here in Delaware County. Another Domestic Relations Court in Ohio is having their second Settlement Week in June. Additionally, several other Domestic Relations Courts have contacted us for information about our Settlement Week. I say this not to be boastful, but to show how our success is catching on because of the great work the Domestic Relations Court staff have done to create these programs.
In addition to creating the programs for our court in Delaware County, I talk often with judges and magistrates around the state of Ohio and beyond to share ideas. Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to present with my court staff, Larry McQuain, and Amy Armstrong, to the Ohio Association of Magistrates about our Settlement Week, Neutral Evaluation and Co-Parent Coaching programs. I am honored to be presenting with Larry and Amy next month for the Ohio Association of Domestic Relations Judges about our dispute resolution programs.
I look forward to continuing to improve our programs, and I am looking forward to many more successful Settlement Weeks to come!