Closer look at Domestic Relations Court programs


I had an amazing opportunity to attend an International Symposium on Family Court Reform. Only 35 Domestic relations and family law judges from around the world were invited to attend the symposium.

The symposium was hosted by the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. The symposium was beneficial as it created a conversation between Domestic relations judges in different parts of the world to discuss issues that affect all of us and to identify ways to improve Domestic relations courts.

After the symposium, we were invited to submit an article for consideration to be part of a special edition of the Family Court Review. According to the AFCC’s website, the Family Court Review is “the leading interdisciplinary academic and research journal for family law professionals. The journal provides comprehensive coverage of family court practice, theory, research, and legal opinion.”

I worked with my co-author, Amy Armstrong, to submit an article about our suite of dispute resolution programs offered at the Delaware County Domestic Relations Court. I was surprised by the amount of work it took to draft the article and meet the high standards set by the Family Court Review. But, I am very happy to say our article was published in the April edition of the Family Court Review.

Our article highlights the many benefits of dispute resolution for families involved in domestic relations cases. In our article we provided information about four of our court programs. Three of the programs were first created by the Delaware County Domestic Relations Court.

The four court programs we discussed in the article are: Settlement Week, Neutral Evaluations, Co-Parent Coaching and Brief Family Assessments. The article highlighted the benefits of each unique program. And, I want to share a little information about each program.

We started Settlement Week in 2018. At that time, we were the only Domestic Relations Court in Ohio to have a Settlement Week Program. A lot of cases have been resolved in our Settlement Week Program.

We were honored last year when Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Sharon Kennedy highlighted my Court Administrator Larry McQuain and I for my Settlement Week Program in her State of the Judiciary speech. The Chief justice encouraged other courts in Ohio to create a Settlement Week Program.

The second program we created is Neutral Evaluation. In Neutral Evaluation people present the facts about their case to a two-person panel. The panel includes a magistrate that is not assigned to their case, and another neutral professional. In cases involving custody and companionship time cases, the second panel member is a mental health professional. In cases involving financial issues, the second panel member is a forensic accountant.

The Neutral Evaluation Program enables people to be heard by the panel. Then, the panel shares their thoughts about the case and possible outcomes. If everyone agrees, then the panel helps to mediate a resolution.

Our third program, Co-Parent Coaching, assists parents to create a better co-parent relationship. The coach works with both parents to address the underlying issues between them and work on possible resolutions. Two of the primary goals of the program are to decrease conflict and increase communication. This often results in resolving co-parent issues.

The final program discussed in our article is Brief Family Assessments. In this program, a mental health professional works with the parents and helps to identify family strengths. The mental health professional also makes recommendations about services needed, if any, to help the family create a better environment for the children.

All of the court programs assist families as they are going through a very difficult time and empowers parents to have control over the decisions that affect their children. Each program focuses on what is in the best interest of the child or children involved in the case.

I am thankful that our article was selected to be published in the Family Court Review. I am hopeful other domestic relations professionals will discover the benefits these programs offer families involved in domestic relations courts.

Randall D. Fuller is judge of the Domestic Relations Division of the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas. Judge Fuller is a lifelong resident of Delaware County.

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