20th Circuit Court, Ottawa County, Michigan
Before: Stressful Hearing Days for Families and Staff Alike
Prior to Matterhorn, Ottawa County’s 20th Circuit Court was running weekly show-cause hearings for parents who failed to make monthly child support payments. Every Friday, as many as 100 very unhappy people would pack into the Friend of the Court’s offices.
The hearing days were stressful for court staff, who had to shepherd them through check-in, meeting with a case manager, meeting with a court-provided attorney, and then going before the judge, all in a space of a few hours. Meanwhile, court staff tallied no-shows and began the process of issuing dozens of failure-to-appear warrants.
During the rest of the week, court staff spent much of their time preparing for the hearing days. They sent letters and communications about balances and hearings, organized files, and answered calls—in addition to their many other responsibilities. Managing all the warrants and hearings took significant staff time.
Solution: Collaboration and Communication Avert Hearings
In early 2016, Ottawa County court leadership approached the Court Innovations team, makers of online dispute resolution platform Matterhorn, about a solution to help caseworkers communicate with their clients more easily. The shared goals for the CII team and the Friend of the Court team were reducing the number of hearings, lowering the number of warrants issued, and increasing the proportion of people who paid before the hearing day and who remained in overall compliance.
The project launched in December of 2016. By mid-way through 2017, enough data were available to take a look at initial outcomes. Data for hearings and hearing outcomes showed excellent results.
Matterhorn Family Court Compliance Platform - Benefits
After Matterhorn, the average number of hearings dropped from close to 400 to below 300 per month (down 27%).
The percentage of cases resolved before the hearing jumped from 39.6% to 48.4% (up 22%).
The average number of warrants issued per month dropped from 143 to 91 (down 36.4%).
Matterhorn Family Court Compliance Platform - Core Features
Bulk, Individual, and Custom Messaging
Court staff and caseworkers can message payer and payee individually or separately through the platform, communicating by email and text.
When a payment is missed and a hearing scheduled, the system automatically notifies the individual of outstanding receivables and what they can do about it.
The hearing manager allows staff to schedule and run hearings and monitor what’s going on with each case on days when you have many of them scheduled. The interface uses icons and color coding so you know where things are at a glance.
Court staff report that this feature has helped them organize flow and the dynamic environment more effectively, and it’s cut down on traffic at the front desk while front line staff work with clients.
Matterhorn’s administrative dashboard can show collections by caseworker and hearing. This feature allows management to view collections and fees gathered for hearings and for individual caseworkers for reporting, training, and administrative purposes.