Family court receives state grant

Jackson County is one of several counties to receive state grant money to benefit local family court projects.

The Indiana Supreme Court recently awarded more than $242,000 in grants ranging from $4,000 to $35,000 to support innovative programs that improve the court process for families.

Jackson County received $20,000, which is to be shared with Lawrence and Brown counties.

Jackson Superior Court II Judge Bruce MacTavish said the money will be used to fund the services of Patrick McSoley, who is a mediator used in the family court program in all three counties.

MacTavish said McSoley is used in Jackson County to mediate, facilitate and prepare documentation in the pro se (representing one’s self) divorce litigation program and also in children in need of services cases.

These situations rely on McSoley’s communication among parties, including individuals, families and the Department of Child Services, to create quicker referral to services, avoid damaging hearings and make quicker out-of-court resolutions.

“It’s successful,” MacTavish said. “He (McSoley) has close to a 90 percent success rate.”

The Family Court Project began in 1999 with cooperation from the Indiana General Assembly. Since then, the Supreme Court has distributed nearly $3.5 million to support family court projects across the state, according to a news release.

The family court project grants are considered seed money, and pilot counties are expected to transition within a reasonable time from “seed” funding to local funding, according to the news release.

Jennings County Superior Court Judge Gary Smith received $4,000. Other counties receiving funds were Allen, Marion, Lake, LaPorte, Floyd, Daviess, Pike, Vanderburgh, Vigo, Warrick, Tippecanoe, Elkhart, Monroe, Greene, Whitley, Jefferson and Owen counties.

Priority was given to applications that emphasized four areas of programming:

Access to justice or improving access to the courts for families without attorneys.

Alternative dispute resolution/early case management or promoting timely resolution of cases.

Court-related services or implementing other programs that support families throughout the court process.

Judicial-academic partnerships or engaging academic partners in researching and analyzing court practices and services and identifying evidence-based practices.

On the Web

Information about the project may be found at courts.in.gov/family-court.