The Indiana General Assembly passed House Enrolled Act 1034 in 2003, authorizing for the first time the creation of alternate dispute resolution programs in domestic relations cases in each of Indiana’s 92 counties. The act was effective on July 1, 2003. The Alternative Dispute Resolution Program in Domestic Relations cases under Indiana Code § 33-23-6 permits a county to collect a $20.00 fee from a party filing for a legal separation, paternity or dissolution case. This fee is placed in a separate fund and may be used for mediation, reconciliation, nonbinding arbitration and parental counseling in the county in which it is collected. Money in the fund must primarily benefit litigants who have the least ability to pay. Litigants with current charges or a former conviction of certain crimes relating to domestic violence are excluded from participating.
Counties wishing to participate in an ADR program must develop an ADR plan that is consistent with the statute and that is approved by a majority of the counties’ judges with jurisdiction over domestic relations and paternity cases. The Indiana Office of Court Services (IOCS) must approve the plan, in accordance with ADR Rule 1.11. The counties are required to file an annual report summarizing the ADR program each year (see annual report form on this site.) Currently there are forty-six counties with approved ADR plans.
IOCS has approved plans in the following areas: mediation services for litigants; free mediation days; payment for training of attorneys and others in exchange for handling a number of mediation cases in a set period of time; parental counseling; and other ADR services. Courts in various counties are creative in the use of the ADR funds to provide a wide range of alternative dispute resolution services under the statute including facilitation, conflict resolution classes, anger management classes, parenting coordination and intensive in-home case management, all of which fall under the general categories of parental counseling and reconciliation listed in the ADR statute.
Plans must include a description of how information about the plan, including the assessment of a $20.00 fee, will be distributed to the various sectors of the county, including but not limited to attorneys, other court/government personnel, social service agencies and providers, and the general public. Plans must also be coordinated with other relevant entities or programs in the community, such as the family court project, legal services, GAL/CASA, and the pro bono district.
Some of the benefits of the ADR programs are:
- they provide an opportunity for litigants involved in divorce and paternity litigation to mediate their dispute when their economic circumstances would otherwise limit their access to mediation;
- mediation resolves issues much more quickly and efficiently and saves a tremendous amount of court time;
- mediation reduces the adversarial hostility of the litigants and gives them a model as to how to resolve their disputes on their own;
- mediation provides better access and more efficient processing for pro se parties; and
- parenting classes and counseling help parents to reduce conflict between them and to maintain a more positive parenting relationship for the sake of the children.
For more information on ADR programs, contact Michael Commons at 317.233.1579 or email@example.com.