Online Dispute Resolution for Post-Judgment Family Law Cases. A Report to the Ottawa County, Michigan, Friend of the Court
110 Pages Posted: 27 Jul 2022
Date Written: July 26, 2022
This report constitutes the first neutral evaluation of any family law court ODR system in the United States.
Parties in Ottawa County, Michigan, with post-judgment family law cases who used an online platform (ODR) for custody, parenting time or child support matters were found to be greater than four times more likely to reach agreement compared to those who did not use ODR. In cases involving child support, parties using the online platform reached resolution nearly twice as fast as those who did not.
Moreover, the Michigan program’s use rate was higher than in other ODR programs, and parties generally found the platform easy to use. The majority of ODR participants gave high ratings (6 or 7 on a scale of 7) when assessing the degree to which they were able to express what was important to them (61.5%) and how fairly they were treated (69.2%), among other procedural justice indicators.
The study was conducted from November 2020-August 2021 for the 20th Circuit Court Friend of the Court (FOC), which facilitates external investigations and furnishes information to support recommendations related to custody, parenting time and child support matters. The FOC launched its ODR program in August 2020 using a platform that allows participants to communicate with each other and their caseworker through asynchronous text and document exchanges.
The evaluation used data from the FOC, the court, the ODR platform, staff interviews and two surveys – one of parties shortly after their matters were filed with the FOC, the other of parties whose information had been entered into the ODR platform by caseworkers and whose matters closed on the platform.
Keywords: courts, ADR, online dispute resolution, conflict resolution, negotiation, mediation technology, family law, custody, divorce, children, ODR, civil justice
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