Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Local Rule - Shelby County: ADR (Mediation) in Domestic Relations

I wrote about Delaware County's mediation program here, today it is Shelby County's turn.  The judges in Shelbyville created a program that appears to have considered the financial costs to the participants unlike two cases I am dealing with in Madison County. (Note:  Madison County is supposed to be considering a mediation program).

LR73-FL00 Rule 2. ADR in Domestic Relations
1. PROGRAM OVERVIEW. The purpose of the ADR Plan is to provide alternative dispute resolution opportunities to litigants involved in dissolution of marriage, legal separation and paternity cases. The goal is to offer litigants the opportunity to resolve conflict amicably, arrive at acceptable resolutions, have ownership of outcomes, and provide a basis upon which to resolve later issues all with the overriding goal of furthering the best interests of children.
A primary aspect of the program is to provide alternative dispute services to litigants of modest means.
The forms of alternative dispute to be used are mediation, arbitration and family counseling in high conflict cases. Mediation will be the favored process. The parties may agree to submit to non-binding arbitration. Courts may require the parties submit to non-binding arbitration. Court may require the parties to participate in counseling in high conflict matters. If mediation or arbitration are used, the Indiana Rules for Alternative Dispute Resolution apply.
The ADR Plan is to be effective with cases filed after September 1, 2005. The Clerk of Shelby County shall commence collecting the additional $20.00 alternative dispute resolution fee, pursuant to Indiana Code 33-4-13-1, on September 1, 2005.
2. ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA. All domestic relations litigants with custody and/or visitation disputes reasonably expected to take one hour or more of court time to litigate their custody and/or visitation dispute shall be required to participate in the ADR Plan.
A party currently charged with or convicted of a crime under Indiana Code 35-42- et seq. Or a substantially similar crime in another jurisdiction may not participate in the ADR Plan.
3. FINANCIAL QUALIFICATIONS. Litigants whose income is less than 125% of the federal poverty guidelines and have less than $10,000.00 of assets will participate without cost. Litigants whose income is between 125% and 175% of the federal poverty guidelines and have less than $20,000.00 of assets will pay a co-payment of $50.00 per hour for the services of the mediator. Litigants whose income is less than 125% and have $20,000.00 or more in assets will co-pay $50.00 per hour for the services of the mediator. Litigants whose income is greater than 175% of the federal poverty guidelines or who own more than $20,000.00 in assets will pay the mediator the normal hourly rate of the mediator.
4. REFERRAL AND PLAN ADMINISTRATION. Evette Spurling, administrator of the Shelby County Public Defender Program and Pro Bono Program, will be the Plan Administrator. She will be responsible for the initial intake of litigants. If a litigant is determined to qualify for no-cost or reduced rate mediation, they will be referred to a volunteer mediator through the Shelby County Pro Bono Program. If the litigant is determined not to qualify for no-cost or reduced rate mediation, the litigant may choose the alternative dispute resolution facilitator of their choice. If one party qualifies but one does not, they shall be referred to a volunteer mediator and the non-qualifying party shall pay the mediator the normal hourly charge of the mediator.
Attorneys and Judges shall refer the appropriate cases to the ADR Plan. All registered domestic law mediators, including Senior Judges, are eligible to act as mediators under the plan.
Funds generated by the Plan shall be managed by the Shelby County Auditor.
5. PLAN EDUCATION. Information about the Plan, including the additional $20.00 filing fee, its implementation, purpose and goals will be presented to the Shelby County Bar Association, the Shelby County Clerk, and local mental health counselors. The general public will be advised through newspaper and radio outlets.
6. PLAN COORDINATION. The ADR Plan will work closely with the Shelby County Pro Bono Program to facilitate the resolution of domestic relations cases without the necessity of extended court hearings. Participants in the Pro Bono Program in domestic relations cases will be required to participate in the ADR Plan to attempt an amicable resolution of the case. The ADR Plan will provide a funding source for resolution of high conflict disputes for litigants of modest means.
7. PROJECTED BUDGET. The Shelby Circuit Court estimates $3,000.00 will be collected annually. These figures are based on the total number of domestic cases filed in 2004 in Shelby Circuit Court (160) and Shelby Superior Court No. 1 (158). There were approximately 5 private paternity actions filed in 2004. There were approximately 20 domestic relation cases filed in which the filing fee was waived or reduced.
Income $6,200.00
Expenses 6,200.00
Compensation for intake and referral
$13.28/hour x 5 hours/week x 52 weeks = 3,452.80
Publicity regarding program 250.00
High conflict counseling 1,497.20
Mediation* 1,000.00
*Mediation costs are low because most mediators will serve on pro bono basis as part of their voluntary participation in Shelby County Pro Bono Plan.
9. PROGRAM EVALUATION AND REPORTING. An annual Report containing data related to the Plan shall be submitted to the judicial Conference by December 31 of each year. It shall be the responsibility of the Judge of Shelby Superior No. 1 to prepare and submit the Annual Report. The Annual Report shall be used to evaluate the program in conjunction with ongoing discussions with the Plan Administrator and representatives from the Pro Bono Program. The Judges and representatives from the Pro Bono Program will also evaluate the Plan on an ongoing basis by reviewing exit surveys which each participant will be asked to complete.
Adopted as ADA Plan. Amended and renumbered as Rule 2, September 30, 2005, effective October 11, 2005.

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