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DOMESTIC RELATIONS PROCEDURES
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The Domestic Relations Department provides support services in a professional, competent and fair manner to the families of Delaware County while making positive changes to enhance the support process. These changes, along with the 135 staff members, make a difference in the lives of children.
Switching from specific job duties to full case management has enhanced custodial and non-custodial parents' communication with their caseworker. Previously caseworkers were assigned to either the establishment or enforcement aspect of the child support process. Within the last two years and with the help of the Pennsylvania Child Support Enforcement Training Institute, Domestic Relations has trained caseworkers to be full case managers. Therefore, custodial and non-custodial parents will meet with a case manager to establish their support obligation and that case manager would also answer any questions or initiate enforcement actions. This is more comforting for parents as they have one person who is familiar with their case throughout the support process.
Support staff from our customer service department has been trained to work closely with the case managers to complete the clerical aspect of the work. While the support staff focuses on assuring that the proper paperwork and notices are sent to the custodial parents, non-custodial parents and attorneys, the case managers have more time to spend on addressing case specific questions.
Focused on serving the needs of our Judges, Support Masters and the public, the Court Unit has been expanded. Additional court staff allows for a more uniform record, timely processing of court orders and faster resolution to the child support court process. The Court Unit continually strives to develop and enhance the expertise needed to process court orders while serving a valuable duty to the public. The Court Unit uses all available resources including Court Smart to resolve any issues that may arise. Court Smart allows any Domestic Relations staff member to listen to a Judge’s or Support Master’s hearing that was conducted.
In addition to the expansion of the court staff, the court liaisons provide a valued service to the courts, public and bar association. The liaisons assist the Judges at hearings and offer help to the custodial parents, non-custodial parents and attorneys to resolve any issues during court.
Recently Domestic Relations has begun to establish and enforce support obligations for children placed in the care of Children and Youth Services (CYS). Our Intake Department processes the petition when a child is placed in CYS care. Establishing and collecting support orders for CYS from the parents lessens the burden on the tax payers cost towards the placement. Towards this same end, Domestic Relations continues to establish and enforce support orders on behalf of Juvenile Court for children in placement.
The State of Pennsylvania has reached an agreement with Orchid Cellmark to handle genetic testing for all 67 Domestic Relations Sections within the state. This change has brought about two enhancements. First, the cost of genetic testing has been reduced from $49 to $32 per person and second, Domestic Relations staff has been trained to administer the buccal swab paternity testing. Having staff trained allows for genetic testing to be conducted immediately with a results turnaround usually within a week from testing.
Another area of focus within the past couple of years has been on serving the outstanding bench warrants on non-custodial parents who have failed to pay child support. With our staff in the Sheriff’s Office, Domestic Relations has been able to reduce its bench warrants from 3,800 to about 750 since 2008. This reduction has resulted in more support payments.
Domestic Relations continues to strive to collect support for the children of Pennsylvania. Recently the State of Pennsylvania has developed two systems to assist on identifying cases that need collections or cases that should be closed. The Performance Improvement Module (PIM) allows for staff and their supervisors to isolate their part of the caseload in which payments are not being received. In turn this allows Domestic Relations to begin immediate enforcement actions on those cases.
This year, the Domestic Relations Section implemented the change to contempt conferences. This procedural change, initiated by the Family Court Judges, will reduce the number of days for a contempt hearing from approximately ninety days to approximately twenty. This procedure will allow any case that has an enforcement issue that is not settled by the case manager to be heard the same day by a Judge. This process will be made possible by the collaboration of all Domestic Relations employees.
Dedication to customer service by all of the Domestic Relations staff has contributed to all of the positive changes. Each day every staff member comes to work with the mindset to make a difference in the lives of children.