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Opinion

Understanding Summit County Domestic Relations Court

4/3/2014 - South Side Leader
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By Staff Writer

Guest Editorial

By Judge John Quinn

In the community, I get a lot of questions about what the Summit County Domestic Relations Court does. The mission of the Domestic Relations Court is to provide legal resolutions to intimate family problems. Our court is where married people in Summit County come to get legal separations, divorces, dissolutions and annulments. It is also the place where individuals who have never married come to determine custody, child support and parenting time. The Summit County Domestic Relations Court issues civil protection orders in cases of domestic violence, whether criminal charges are filed or not.

As the administrative judge, I oversee the court’s personnel and procedures. We have 11 full-time magistrates — one chief magistrate, Allen Carter; a trial magistrate, Janet Kleckner; nine hearing magistrates; and one mediation magistrate. Together they serve in more than 10,000 hearings each year. Our magistrates hear divorce, parentage and civil domestic violence cases. The philosophy they follow is that children do best when they have positive relationships with both parents. In all of our procedures, children’s well-being is forefront. We work with parents to determine children’s best interest. Sometimes, this requires that parents be referred to our education programs and to our social services department, Family Court Services.

Family Court Services includes one director of Family Court Services, Randy Flick; a community outreach director, Sue Tucker; and four additional social workers. Family Court Services provides custody evaluations when parents cannot agree on where children should live and parent education programs to help parents understand the impact that conflict can have on their children. There are three parent education programs: “Remember the Children,” a mandatory program for divorcing parents; the “Working Together Program” for never-married parents; and the “Positive Solutions Program” for high-conflict parenting situations. During my tenure with the court, we have developed and expanded these programs to better respond to issues in cases, as they develop.

We are very proud of our emphasis on mediation in the court. Our court believes that parenting arrangements that have been developed and agreed to by parents are always more effective than what the court may order. We weave mediation into our court process in a number of ways. All initial and post-decree divorce cases are referred to our mandatory mediation program. The Working Together Program for never-married parents also includes a mediation component. Our “Informal Proceedings” program is available to all post-decree cases, for resolving communication, transportation and other minor disagreements. We also have a list of outside mediators for parties to choose from. All parties are screened for domestic violence issues prior to any mediation taking place.

I hope that you can see that the Summit County Domestic Relations Court takes pride in our innovative and productive programming. We are one of the only courts in the state to have such a creative approach to helping families grow through change. This is reflected in our efficiency ratings at the Supreme Court level. If you have any questions regarding this or other information, please feel free to contact our Community Outreach Director, Sue Tucker, at 330-643-2359 or at stucker@drcourt.org.

 

Judge John Quinn serves in the Summit County Court of Common Pleas Domestic Relations Court.

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