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Just Court ADR

The blog of Resolution Systems Institute

RSI Receives Irwin Cantor Award and Two New Resources Now Available on AboutRSI.org

Susan M. Yates, June 14th, 2019

Dear Friend of RSI,

We have had a wonderful start to the summer here at RSI! From a trip to Toronto to new updates to AboutRSI.org, I am delighted to share some exciting updates and our latest resources with you!

RSI Receives Irwin Cantor Award

In May, Director of Research Jennifer Shack and I attended the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts’ 56th Annual Conference in Toronto, Canada. While there, RSI was awarded the AFCC’s Irwin Cantor Innovative Program Award. The Irwin Cantor Innovative Program Award was created to recognize innovation in court-connected or court-related programs. All of us at RSI thank the AFCC for this honor and for recognizing the work we are doing. We look forward to continuing to serve the court ADR community!

Jennifer Shack, me, and AFCC Executive Director Peter Salem at the AFCC Conference.

Introducing Our New Online Dispute Resolution Special Topic!

I am excited to introduce our new Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) Special Topic with you! With courts across the country exploring ODR at a rapid pace, our latest special topic provides a thoughtful context and guidance on how court administrators and stakeholders should approach the intersection of technology and dispute resolution. The special topic contains a history of ODR, considerations for courts, and a compilation of helpful resources.

RSI’s Newly Updated Court ADR Across the U.S.

Are you curious about what court ADR looks like across the country? Look no further than our Court ADR Across the U.S. which is the most comprehensive collection of court ADR resources for state courts throughout the country. Our newly updated resource contains the latest court ADR information for each state. Each state page provides an overview of relevant statutes, statewide court ADR rules, policies, evaluations, studies, and articles.

If you enjoy or utilize our resources, please consider making a tax-deductible donation to RSI here. Your donation will be put to work improving access to justice through quality court ADR.

Thank you as always for your support and your interest in our mission of improving access to justice by enhancing court ADR.

Susan M. Yates

Executive Director

Resolution Systems Institute

My Favorite Resource Featuring Christine Poulson

Nicole Wilmet, May 30th, 2019

Our series, My Favorite Resource, features interviews with our ADR friends across the country to learn about their favorite ADR resources. This month, Resource Center Director Nicole Wilmet spoke with Christine Poulson, Executive Director at Resolution Virginia, to learn about her favorite resource.

NW: What is one of your favorite ADR resources?

CP: I have spent twenty years working in community mediation. My go-to resource is the National Association for Community Mediation’s email list-serve.

NW: Why do you value this particular resource?

CP: There are hundreds of not-for-profit dispute resolution centers across that country that are trying to attain similar goals. These centers have a wealth of experience and they generously share that experience through the NAFCM list-serve so that no one has to reinvent the wheel. If I am having a problem at a center, likely someone else has had that same problem and has found ways to resolve it. If I want to start a program that someone else has run for years, I can get their “lessons learned” and save myself some failure. Perhaps most importantly, the list-serve helps me to feel that I am part of a supportive community that celebrates my successes and keeps me going when things are difficult.

NW: How did you first learn about this resource?

CP: As a NAFCM member for many years, I learned about the resource when the NAFCM Executive Director suggested I ask a question of the membership via the list-serve.

NW: For those unfamiliar with this resource, what is one part of this resource you wouldn’t want someone to miss?

CP: I would hate for people to miss out on the camaraderie of the group. People well-known (and not-so-well-known) in the field give so freely of their experiences. It really is a wealth of information.

Those interested in subscribing to the NAFCM Network can do so by sending an email to: nafcm-network-subscribe@lists.riseup.net.

If you have a favorite resource you would like to share in an upcoming edition of our newsletter and on our blog, please reach out to our Resource Center Director and Court ADR Connection Editor, Nicole Wilmet at nwilmet@aboutrsi.org!

Study of Child Protection Mediation in Michigan Finds High Rates of Satisfaction, Permanency Effects

Jennifer Shack, May 29th, 2019

The Michigan State Court Administrative Office recently released its report on child protection mediation (CPM) in the state. In Michigan, CPM is conducted by community mediation centers associated with the courts. The study looked at CPM at five of these centers, which collectively provide services for 24 counties. It focused on descriptive statistics, participant and stakeholder perspectives, and time to permanency. The report found that CPM participants have positive perspectives on the process, that stakeholders are largely supportive of it and that it reduces time to permanency.

Mediation in the five sites (Gaylord, Jackson, Marquette, Petoskey and Traverse City) is voluntary and primarily takes place early in the case, on average within 60 days of the filing of the petition. In the five sites, the number of mediated cases during the study period (January 2016 – October 15, 2018) ranged from six to 105.

Petoskey and Gaylor had participant experience data. In both, participants responded positively to each survey question asked. In Petoskey, participants said that they had the opportunity to express themselves, gained a better understanding of the issues, felt respected and felt the process was fair to them. In Gaylord, they had similarly high ratings for those topics, and also said they felt safe and believed the mediator was neutral.

The study included data from surveys statewide that asked those going through the traditional process and those going through CPM how satisfied they were with their experience. On three metrics, parties who went through CPM gave slightly higher ratings: case resolution, staff courtesy and courtesy of the judge.

The researchers interviewed ten stakeholders for the report. The stakeholders were asked about their perspectives on the effectiveness of CPM. The majority believed that CPM resulted in significant time and cost savings. They also felt that mediation was effective at improving family permanency and the parents’ relationships with child protection workers. On the other hand, they had some reservations about how often parents comply with mediation agreements.

The interviewees were also asked their perceptions of other parties’ willingness to participate in CPM. Their responses indicated that stakeholders were consistently likely, or very likely, to be willing to participate in CPM, with child protection workers relatively willing and guardians ad litem extremely willing to do so.

The researchers compared the average time to permanency in the CPM study sites to those in comparable sites that did not have CPM. They found variation in the time to permanency among the five sites, as well as the comparison sites, with Petoskey having a much longer time to permanency than any of the other sites. Overall, however, they found that time to permanency was 50 days shorter on average in CPM sites than in the comparison sites. The researchers also found that cases in the CPM sites were more likely to close within 2 years than those in the comparison sites. Again, there was significant variation among the sites.

It isn’t clear from the data provided that CPM was the cause of the shorter time to permanency or the higher closure rate. In Traverse City and Jackson, which had the shortest times to permanency, a very small percentage of cases was mediated (6 mediated cases, 145 cases closed for Traverse City and 9 cases mediated, 133 cases closed for Jackson), which calls into question how much of an effect CPM was on permanency at those sites.

Wisconsin Assembly Considers Bill that Would Require Proposed Parenting Plans to Be Submitted Before Mediation

Nicole Wilmet, May 28th, 2019

In Wisconsin, in any family law cases, including cases where legal custody or physical placement is contested, parties are required to attend at least one session of mediation. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement during this initial mediation session (or if mediation has been waived due to hardship or safety concerns), the parties are then required to file a parenting plan with the court. These parenting plans are required to contain a variety of information including the type of legal custody or physical placement sought, the child support and maintenance needed, as well as information on the parent’s current residence, employment, how the child’s medical expenses will be paid, and a proposed holiday placement schedule for the child.

The Wisconsin Assembly recently introduced a bill that would modify the parenting plan requirements and the timeline for mediation. Under the proposed legislation, each party would be required to submit a proposed parenting plan at least ten days prior to the initial mediation session. As a result, under this new schedule, mediators would discuss the content of these proposed parenting plans with the parties during their initial mediation session. The proposed bill also makes changes to the required contents of the parenting plans. Under the proposed bill, parenting plans would no longer be required to include information on the type of child support and maintenance sought or contain information about how the child’s medical expenses will be paid. Instead, the proposed bill would require parenting plans to include specific details about the various costs expected to be incurred by or on behalf of the child. In a recent video, Representative Robert Brooks and Senator Lena Taylor further discuss this bill, as well as four other proposed bills that address child custody and support.

Update: New Jersey Foreclosure Legislative Package Signed Into Law

Nicole Wilmet, May 24th, 2019

In March, I reported on a package of ten bills being considered by the New Jersey legislature that would reform the state’s residential mortgage foreclosure process. The bills were built on recommendations from a Special Committee on Residential Foreclosures that examined the state’s foreclosure practices, policies, court rules and legislation and made suggestions for improvement. Since March, a handful of the original ten bills underwent slight modifications and currently, one of the initial bills is still under consideration. At the end of April, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed a modified nine-bill package into law. Notably, one of the bills in the package codifies and makes permanent the state’s Foreclosure Mediation Program. Additional information about the other bills in the package can be found here.