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|July 31, 2012
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Probate and Family Probation Officers Help Resolve Disputes In More than 60
Percent of Contested Cases Saving Litigants and the Courts Time and Money
Quote: "The family is both the fundamental unit of society as well as the root of culture...," Marianne E. Neifert, "Dr. Mom's Parenting Guide."
Probate & Family Court Probation Officers across the state have helped warring former couples reach a resolution in more than 60 percent of contested cases involving child custody, child support, divorce, separation, and guardianship-- sparing these individuals hours of costly litigation and freeing the court of nasty battles that in the past may have waged on for years.
The 75 Probation Officers, who work in the 12 Probate & Family Court Probation Departments across the state, accomplished this feat through the Dispute Intervention process. During the Dispute Intervention process, a Probation Officer serves as a neutral party when assisting former couples or family members in a contested case reach a resolution. These Probation Officers also assist judges in addressing the guardianship cases of children and elders. Over the past year, Probate & Family Probation Officers performed a total of 33, 204 dispute interventions at all stages of the litigation process from the initial court appearance to trial.
“These resolutions, despite the often contentious nature of these cases, are a testament to Probation Officers' abilities and commitment to their work,” said Richard O'Neil, Probate & Family Probation Regional Supervisor, who manages the dozen Probate & Family Court Probation Departments.
Probate & Family Court Probation Officers, formerly referred to as Family Service Officers, negotiate family disputes as well as monitor and enforce the orders of the court. These Probation Officers investigate issues of custody, child access with non-custodial parents, parental fitness under paternity, divorce, and guardianship actions heard in court. A Probate & Family Probation Officer is also responsible for performing drug and alcohol tests, monitoring community service hours performed by litigants as well as enforcing electronic monitoring ordered by the court.
It is also the duty of Probate & Family Probation Officers to oversee litigants' efforts to secure employment. Probation Officers work collaboratively with the Department of Revenue (DOR) as part of the Seek Work Program in which non-custodial parents search for employment to pay child and family support. The Seek Work Program was established in 1992. Since the inception of the program, Probate & Family Court Probation Officers have aided more than 8,000 non-custodial parents in their search for employment.
Probate & Family Probation Officers have also taken on a new charge of encouraging fathers to become more actively involved with their children's lives which national studies show leads to a reduction in family conflict and a decrease in recidivism or offenders committing new crimes.
In addition to resources provided by the Probate & Family Courts, Probation Officers have created programs to promote responsibility and law-abiding behavior among individuals appearing before the court. These programs include parenting programs as well as educational initiatives for young adults in a proactive effort to prevent them from becoming future litigants.