With a goal of minimizing conflict for Ohio children and families, teams of domestic relations court judges and their justice system partners from around Ohio attended a statewide summit this week to assess their case management, examine resources, and share promising practices.
Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor charged domestic relations judges to lead a delegation of four additional key leaders from their communities who have the vision and ability to effect real change in the lives of children and families in transition. Community justice system partners may include: a member of the bar, guardian ad litem or custody evaluator, child support enforcement agency representative, victim service provider, and court and/or clerk staff.
To evaluate the current state of their court using a facilitator provided by the Supreme Court, teams completed an assessment of their local case management practices by identifying tasks that each party performs to advance a case through the entire case flow process. In addition, teams analyzed the case management for steps that can be streamlined, combined, or reorganized; assessed their resources to ensure their optimal use; and identified challenges and solutions.
A team of representatives from Washington County participated in the two-day statewide summit on April 24 and 25.
In her welcome address, Chief Justice O'Connor told the attendees that the point of the summit is for them to take what they learn over the next two days and implement it. She also had two other reminders.
"Always keep in the mind the ultimate goal of this initiative: Improving the case management progression for parties appearing before the court," she said. "By performing this crucial and necessary assessment, you will ensure the best outcome possible for children and families in your court."
In addition, she emphasized the value and the necessity of collection, tracking, reporting, and - most importantly - using data. "Gathering this data and sharing it with justice system partners benefits juveniles and families currently in the justice and/or child welfare systems and those coming in the years ahead."
Supreme Court staff envisioned the summit as a way to shine a light on Ohio's domestic relations courts, which have jurisdiction over all proceedings involving divorce or dissolution of marriages, annulment, legal separation, spousal support, and allocation of parental rights and responsibilities for the care of children.
Modeled after the National Summit on Children, the idea for the summit came about after the success of the Supreme Court's Beyond the Numbers project, which primarily focused on improving court processes for the benefit of children and families.
Participating from Washington County were: Judge Randall G. Burnworth, Magistrate Shoshanna Brooker, Attorney Timothy Loughry, Denise Hinton from the Child Support Enforcement Agency and Brenda Wolfe, clerk of courts.
"The Summit helped focus team members on the importance of achieving the best results for Ohio's families and especially children caught up in the end of their parents' relationships," said Judge Burnworth.