The staff at the 20th Circuit Court in Ottawa County, Michigan share their experience using Matterhorn for domestic relations cases, specifically ODR for child support compliance. See the full video below!
Kevin J. Bowling, JD
Court Administrator, 20th Circuit & Ottawa County Probate Courts
We’ve had a long history of trying to enforce child support orders effectively and often that results in a large number of what we call order to show cause hearings where people are summoned into court and they have to explain themselves to a judge as to why they haven’t paid their child support obligations. As a result of that some people may go to jail, some people may not show up, and have bench warrants issued, some people may bring in money and pay on the spot and it resolves the hearing.
What always struck me is that on any given Friday morning when we scheduled those, we’d have a hundred to two hundred people showing up in the lobby for what could have been taken care of through a phone call or through a computer application.
Matthew J. Schmid, M.A. SCAO Mediator
Assistant Friend of the Court: Field Services Ottawa County Friend of the Court
In the Matterhorn platform, what they allow us to do is to shoot out texts to people to say “you have not made a payment on your obligation, you have not connected with us in over a month, you haven’t made a payment in this long, please connect with me. We have employment opportunities for you, we have a skills workshop that we can work with you on.
We don’t want to be a reactive court.
Kevin J. Bowling
We wanted to reduce the number of show-cause hearings, so that we could free up more time for the judges and the courtroom for other cases that were pressing. We wanted to try to resolve the cases because our goal always is not to put people in jail, our goal is to have child support orders properly enforced so that eventually that money gets to the kids and to the families that are going to benefit from that. So there’s food on the table, and there’s a roof over their heads and clothes on their back.
We really don’t need to force people to come into court just for the sake of doing that so we wanted to resolve the cases. And, we also wanted to try to reduce the number of bench warrants that were issued on a regular basis.
Matthew J. Schmid
Maybe before you couldn’t connect with me because maybe I didn’t have stable housing, or stable employment, or I didn’t have transportation, reliable transportation. Because of these barriers, maybe the connection is more difficult, or the access to our office is more difficult. But with Matterhorn, even if you have multiple barriers, we normally can connect with you, so, to me, that’s positive.
Kevin J. Bowling
We’re better now than we were before because we’re meeting these performance measures and it’s having a positive impact on our clients, and a positive impact on the court in terms of our overall efficiency levels and how we’re using our staff, and a positive impact for the county.
Judicial Clerk II, Ottawa County Friend of the Court
When I first started working for Friend of the Court, we didn’t have Matterhorn. So it was a lot of the paper check-in, where I would write the names down, people would come up and check the names off, and see their clients. I was probably a year and a half in when we started using Matterhorn and it’s completely changed the game in a good way.
Kevin J. Bowling
Our investment in Matterhorn is paying off for the court, for the county as our funding unit, but most importantly for the people that are trying to get their business handled.
Read more in Trends in State Courts
The National Center for State Courts (NCSC) recently published the Trends in State Courts 2019 report that examines court technology and other topics related to the role of courts in society. The report features an article from the 20th Circuit Court in Ottawa County, Michigan discussing the court’s process and outcomes using online dispute resolution (ODR) for Child Support compliance.