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Monday, September 16, 2013

Ind. Courts - "Family courts trying to keep it civil"

A long story this weekend from Susan Brown of the NWI Times begins:

Nearly 15 years after the Indiana Supreme Court launched its Family Court Project, 22 counties — including Lake and Porter — are working toward a kinder, gentler, more holistic way to resolve family crises, court officials say.

"Family law cases are different than most cases," said Merrillville attorney Debra Dubovich, head of the Family Law section of the Lake County Bar Association.

"If you're hit by a drunk driver, it's an emotional thing. But when being sued by the person who promised to love, honor and cherish you your entire life, it's takes on a whole new dimension. The courtroom is never a good place to decide those issues."

A litigant may never see a drunken driving defendant again after the case is concluded, she said.

But that's not the case with families.

"If you have children, then it's for the rest of their life," Dubovich said.

More from the story:
While he was a legislator in the 1990s, now Porter Superior Court Judge William Alexa was in the vanguard of the high court's family court initiative.

Working with Porter Circuit Court Judge Mary Harper, Alexa obtained funding for the county as one of the three or four original demonstration projects.

"The purpose was to maintain contact with families that may have things going on in different courts," he said.

Today he receives at least a weekly printout listing families involved with the family court, Alexa said.

"It's important for me to know if one of my defendants is also involved in a domestic violence case," he said. "It's also important at sentencing time for a presentence report."

Alexa said the extra awareness allows him to modify an order in his court when he learns of a family's issues in another court.

But all family court initiatives are under the domain of Harper and have been since 2000.

Since then, Harper has sought to bridge the gap between the fields of adult and juvenile justice, according to a 2011 report to the high court.

In the report, the county details a comprehensive "full service court" process to collect information on families involved in family law and juvenile cases and provide an array of services.

Any family with multiple cases is eligible for family court and, when selected, all pending cases involving the family are included in family court proceedings — though the cases remain in their original courts.

Over the years, the county's family court initiatives have expanded to include a mental health diversion program and a juvenile and family drug court.

There is much more in the long story.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 16, 2013 02:59 PM
Posted to Indiana Courts