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The Domestic Relations Division of the Medina County Court of Common Pleas handles cases involving divorce, dissolution, the care and support of children, and the protection of victims of domestic violence.
The Medina County Domestic Relations Court works to bring about results that are fair, just and respectful of the law. The Court and its officers are committed to helping families in transition to resolve their disagreements about finances, property, and especially, to help families resolve their disputes regarding children. The Court is committed to serving the best interests of children by creating solutions, resolving disputes, and helping families transition smoothly into a new family situation.
In 2014, a total of 3,484 cases were opened in the Domestic Relations Court and 3,512 were concluded (including cases that were pending at the beginning of the year). The Court averaged 1,286 cases pending per month. Marriage terminations, including divorces and dissolutions accounted for 623 of the cases heard before the Court and of this number, 319 involved children. The Court heard 275 domestic violence cases and 1,813 cases dealing with child support enforcement, modification or termination.
While managing the caseload on a timely basis is of high priority, the Court also recognizes the responsibility it has to all the Medina County residents. As such, the Court has sought to identify the needs of those it serves and Judge Kovack has created and implemented several new programs to address these needs.
In 2001, Judge Kovack established a Community Services Office to link families with agencies and resources in the community. The financial impact of a divorce can be tremendous on both parties and it is critical that parents are aware of all available resources during this time of transition. This program was implemented at no additional cost to taxpayers. In 2003 the program was expanded to provide a case services assessment for all cases with children. This process helps the Court better understand each family’s unique circumstances and offer community and Court resources to better serve the needs of the family.
Judge Kovack also initiated a mediation program where families can resolve their disagreements in a less adversarial setting. The program is elective and provides a private and structured forum for discussing problems and finding solutions. It is also available free of charge to any Medina County resident with children, whether or not they have a case pending in the Court.
While the mediation program is voluntary, parenting seminars are not. The Court requires all divorcing parents to attend the “Still Parents” program. This two-hour seminar focuses on what children need during and after the divorce and gives parents the practical skills for making the transition as painless as possible. A comparable program is in place for the children of divorce. The “Looking Forward” seminar allows children to see and be with others who are going through similar experiences. It teaches children how to express their feelings, maintain a positive attitude and develop problem-solving abilities.
In 2004, Judge Kovack created a safe exchange and supervised parenting time center for families at risk in divorce, post decree and domestic violence cases in Medina County. Through the collaborative efforts of Solutions Behavioral Healthcare, the Medina County Commissioners and the Medina County Domestic Relations Court, the program provides a safe environment for children to be exchanged by divorced and separated parents. Also, when the court requires a parent to be monitored while having parenting time, program staff will supervise the visits to ensure that appropriate interactions and activities are occurring. By limiting children’s exposure to high conflict parents or inappropriate parental behavior, the court hopes to provide a place where the children can develop healthy relationships with both parents and teach parents better ways to interact with the children and the other parent. The program is currently funded by Court fees.
In 2011, Judge Kovack created a special docket for Domestic Violence Civil Protection Orders through an Office on Violence Against Women Grant to Encourage Arrest Policies initially awarded in 2011 and re-awarded in 2013. All petitions for protection orders are heard by a Magistrate who only hears Domestic Violence cases. This eliminates the wait that victims of domestic violence had in the past while they waited for a trial magistrate to be available to hear their ex parte petitions. In addition to a specialized magistrate, the grant allows the Court to house a domestic violence advocate who assists victims with necessary paperwork, provides crisis intervention, and emotional support during hearings.
In 2014, Judge Kovack implemented an Intensive Case Management Program for high conflict parenting cases. The parties will meet with the Intensive Case Manager, a licensed social worker to develop or improve effective communication skills that will reduce conflict and ultimately reduce the amount of ongoing litigation. The program offers litigants a forum to discuss and offer input on their ongoing concerns with the opportunity to reach an immediate resolution of their immediate crisis. Cases can be referred to the Intensive Case Manager by recommendation of Case Services or by order of the Court. Case Management sessions are conducted at the Court's Supervised Parenting Time and Exchange Center located at 4046 Medina Road.