FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — The eighth and newest problem-solving court was introduced at the Allen County Courthouse on Monday.
Allen Superior Court’s Family Relations Division announced it is now provisionally certified for a Family Domestic Violence Court.
Heading the press conference was Judge Lori Morgan, who will hear all domestic violence court cases.
Judge Morgan said this new court program is the first of its kind in Indiana because it marries domestic violence and the family aspect of it that often doesn’t get looked at it domestic violence cases.
“We’ve really come up with a good process that we feel will be beneficial for families and children in our community,” she said. “We are so excited about the opportunities that will be offered to children and families in Fort Wayne.”
This new problem-solving court is backed by a panel of experts and stakeholders who’ve been meeting for months, coming up with the the right type of services that will help children who witness domestic violence in their home, and aims to help avoid seeing repeat offenders in court.
Judge Morgan said she’s starting to see the children of parents she first saw 28 years ago now coming through her court as either an offender or survivor of domestic violence.
She said that was a sign that the services being provided weren’t working.
Now, those who come through the Allen Superior Court for domestic violence will go through three phases and a graduation.
The first phase involves weekly court hearings where support and encouragement can be provided.
The second phase scales the court hearings back to every two weeks and those involved will start to participate in various services.
In the third phase, the court backs off a bit as long as long as there is proof of stable housing and the ability for families to support themselves.
Finally, they will graduate when they demonstrate they have successfully participated in the program.
Judge Morgan said this program will last eight to 24 months based off of the family and their specific needs.
“We’re going to make sure we are providing comprehensive services and the right services to children and families,” Judge Morgan said.
An example she gave: they’ve learned over time that anger management doesn’t typically work for domestic violence offenders. There are better intervention services available, Judge Morgan said.
“Domestic violence is the genesis of many abuse and neglect cases that wind up in family court,” she added. “But this is not a criminal proceeding – that occurs elsewhere. The mission of our Family Domestic Violence Court is to reduce the risk of violence by empowering survivors and assisting those who have engaged in acts of domestic violence by providing resources to achieve a safe and healthy family.”
Domestic Violence stats in Allen County seem to be a bit higher than national averages. Stats form the Indiana Coalition against Domestic Violence Report were cited at the press conference.
They said the national average for domestic violence is one in four people. In Allen County, it’s one in three people they said.
According to online records, the Fort Wayne Police Department responded to 6,836 domestic disturbance calls in 2022. The department’s Domestic Violence Investigative Section had 456 cases assigned to it in 2022, compared to 444 in 2021.
Judge Morgan said even one domestic violence case is one too many.
“In family court, our goal is always to reunify families in healthy ways,” Judge Morgan explained. “That is not always possible, especially in cases involving domestic violence. What we can do is provide the right treatment, in the right way at the right time to give families, survivors and perpetrators of domestic violence their best possible future.”
The court’s provisional certification lasts six months. After that, they will have to get regular certification which lasts three years, according to Judge Morgan.
She said they already have four people who will be participating in this new court program starting within the next two weeks.