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Indiana Family courts receive more than $200,000

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As the family court project of the Indiana Supreme Court’s Division of State Court Administration enters a new year, courts that participate in the program have learned they will continue to operate with about the same amount of funding they have had in recent years.

More than $200,000 was distributed among 13 programs serving 17 counties for 2011, according to Loretta Oleksy, Family Court Project Manager.

The other seven counties that participate in the program will also continue to operate at levels similar to recent years, but they did not submit requests for grants for 2011 because they have been able to secure other funding sources or had funds left over from last year. (See map of all counties with family court projects.)

Existing programs that received grants for 2011 include:

• Allen County’s project received $15,000 and served 141 new families in the first three quarters of 2010, the latest numbers available from the statewide Family Court Project. That program includes a facilitation program for paternity cases. The project also plans to expand its ADR program to include post-decree cases.

• A four-county program, which comprises Bartholomew, Brown, Jackson, and Lawrence counties, received $15,000 and served 325 new families in the first three quarters of 2010. This program also offers ADR and facilitates CHINS cases.

The Clark County Family Court Project received $25,000, and served 340 new families in the first three quarters of 2010. That project has proposed programming to include a Family Drug Treatment Court and CHINS mediation.

Other existing programs include a project in Henry County, which received $10,000 and served at least eight new families; a project in Lake County received $12,000, and served at least 43 new families; the LaPorte County project received $15,000, and served at least 312 new families; Marion County received $20,000 with the possibility of an additional $10,000 based on the recommendations of a report by the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, and served at least 985 new families; Owen County’s project received $2,000 and served at least 21 new families; the St. Joseph County project received $15,000 and served at least 224 new families; Tippecanoe County’s project received $15,000 and served at least 194 new families; and Vanderburgh County’s family court project received $10,000 and served at least 66 new families. The number of new families served for each county includes those served during the first three quarters of 2010.

The three newest programs are in Madison and Parke counties, which both started in 2010. Madison County’s project received $20,000 and plans to assist up to 20 families based on who has the most need. Parke County’s project received $4,000, and is piloting the “family jacket” capability within Odyssey to coordinate a family’s multiple cases.

Jefferson County’s family court project is the latest, starting this year with a $40,000 grant. That county’s program includes a truancy prevention program.

According to a description of the program provided by Oleksy, the existing out-of-school suspension program, Court Assisted Resolution of School Suspensions, will implement a Saturday school component and provide “additional staff to supervise students who are removed from the CARSS classroom for bad behavior. In the past, these students have been sent home.”

All of the family court projects have tailored their grant requests, whether from the Division of State Court Administration, their individual counties, or other funding sources, to their specific needs. Each project has some flexibility in what it chooses to do or not do based on its needs, Oleksy said.

For instance, because Marion County’s project is among the largest in the state, that program uses a combination of one judge-one family and information sharing models. It also offers a Family Resource Center, service referral and coordination, alternative dispute resolution options for domestic relations cases, and assistance for self-represented litigants.

It is also helpful to pro se litigants in Marion County who don’t want to wait up to six months to be placed with a pro bono attorney through Heartland Pro Bono Council, which serves Indiana Pro Bono District 8, which includes Marion and surrounding counties.

family court“We hear from clients who don’t want to wait up to six months to be assigned to an attorney for family law cases,” said Heartland’s executive director, Laurie Boyd. She added that the majority of the cases she and other pro bono districts receive are family law cases, and that these projects offer another option.

The existence of the family law projects has also been helpful to the Volunteer Lawyer Program of Southwestern Indiana, in Pro Bono District 13, which includes Vanderburgh County. That program includes a Pro Se Assistance Clinic, which has a part-time social work intern who can help with case management, social service referrals, and coordination of mediation services, when applicable. That clinic also focuses on family law matters involving children, and gives special attention to families with multiple cases.

Scott Wylie, co-plan administrator for District 13, said he has noticed how the clinic has been helpful to all the legal aid providers in the area.

“Volunteer attorneys assist clients to complete a pro se form, then help pro se parties complete the forms and file them there … and that’s a solution. It allows us to focus attorney referrals to those most needing legal counsel. But just because someone is getting a divorce and doesn’t have children, it doesn’t mean they deserve counsel any less than anyone else,” he said.

He said the project has also helped because it offers access to mediation, counseling, and parenting coordination. That access has also cut the number of continuances, he said, because parties who go through that clinic have the right forms in the first place and have some guidance when they fill them out and file them.

“A pro se litigant without help can be a mess, but with basic guidance on demeanor in court and which forms to fill out, they can have a better chance of getting through the system. It’s still not as good as having an attorney,” he said, but it has helped.

Because the statewide project started in 2000, Oleksy said the judicial officers and staff have been reflecting on the last decade and recently completed a survey.

She said the results were very positive. Of the 65 people who received surveys, 34 began the surveys and 30 completed them. At least one person from each county involved in the project completed a survey.

Among the results, Oleksy and others in the Division of State Court Administration learned that the family court project has: improved responding courts’ ability to avoid conflicting and/or redundant orders for families with multiple cases (87 percent); avoided re-litigating the same issue in multiple courts (90 percent); made informed and coordinated decisions for families with multiple cases (87 percent); and avoided unnecessary delays in the judicial process (87 percent).

The survey also showed that the projects have: improved access to affordable alternative dispute resolution, assessment, and treatment for families (90 percent); improved families’ understanding of court orders and compliance with court-ordered services (83 percent); improved legal accuracy and sufficiency of self-represented litigant family law filings (83 percent); and decreased the amount of time judicial officers spend on non-judicial activities (i.e., calculating child support, reviewing pleadings, etc.) in cases involving self-represented litigants (83 percent).

“I forget sometimes how helpful these projects are,” Oleksy said, “but then I visit them and I see the work they do with individual families. They never cease to amaze me. The potential impact on pro se litigants is tremendous.”•

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  1. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  2. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  3. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  4. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

  5. Have been seeing this wonderful physician for a few years and was one of his patients who told him about what we were being told at CVS. Multiple ones. This was a witch hunt and they shold be ashamed of how patients were treated. Most of all, CVS should be ashamed for what they put this physician through. So thankful he fought back. His office is no "pill mill'. He does drug testing multiple times a year and sees patients a minimum of four times a year.

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