New model family court pilot projects will begin in six additional counties, joining the growing family court movement in Indiana, Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard announced today.
The Indiana legislature and the Indiana Supreme Court have partnered since 2000 to fund model family court projects across Indiana.
The newest family court projects will be in Allen County and St. Joseph County, along with a multiple-county project that will be created in Martin, Pike, Crawford, and Orange counties in southern Indiana .
These pilot projects will join seventeen other counties that are already part of the Indiana Supreme Court Family Court Project.
The new project counties will receive a total of $125,000 in family court grants in 2006, and an additional $125,000 will be distributed to help the existing family court counties transition to permanent funding through local resources. By the end of 2007, a total of $1,634,038 will have been distributed to 23 counties through the Family Court Project since 2000.
The new family court projects in Allen and St. Joseph Counties will develop procedures to identify, coordinate, and share information about families who have more than one case pending in the court system. As with most Family Court projects, the counties will seek to avoid conflicting court orders and to coordinate services for families who have safety risks related to substance abuse, domestic violence, mental illness, or severe parental conflict. These two counties will also develop local family court rules and promote concepts of cooperative divorce and a less adversarial approach in family law litigation.
The Family Court Project for Crawford, Martin, Orange, and Pike counties is a collaboration of four rural counties using the same personnel to provide subsidized mediation for families with low-income and without legal counsel. This project will also provide administrative services to help low income families link to needed social services and coordinate services for families who have more than one case in the court system.
The Indiana Family Court Project was initiated in 2000 by the Indiana Supreme Court to develop "common sense" models to serve children and families better in Indiana 's courts. Chief Justice Shepard explained that it has been increasingly common for families to be involved in several cases at the same time.
"It is not uncommon, for example, for Mom and Dad to have a custody dispute in Circuit Court while their son is in the Circuit Court's Juvenile Division in a truancy case before the magistrate. Meanwhile, Dad is also charged with failure to pay child support for children from a previous marriage in Superior Court I and Mom is the subject of a housing eviction case in small claims court," he said.
All of these cases affect the stability and safety of the children. A family court system can make sure that the judicial rulings affecting these children are coordinated, informed, and consistent, Chief Justice Shepard added.
Further information about the Indiana Family Court Project and the special family court rules for the project counties is available at www.in.gov/judiciary/family-court/.