Dispute Resolution Officer Program
Superior Court of Justice
in Durham (Superseded)
Motions to change are on the rise in family law proceedings. The increase in these motions has made it a challenge to ensure timely and effective first case conferences for parties. In order to attempt to address these issues, senior family law lawyers in Durham have agreed to assist the Superior Court of Justice by volunteering as Dispute Resolution Officers (DROs), for 1 year commencing Monday April 4, 2011. After one year, the program will be reviewed and evaluated. The DROs will be authorized to hear first case conferences for motions to change pursuant to Rule 17(9) of the Family
Application of the Practice Direction
- Commencing April 4, 2011, for all motions to change filed pursuant to Rule 15 of the Family Law Rules in the Superior Court of Justice in Durham the first case conference shall be heard before a DRO.
Schedule for Case Conferences with DROs
- In Durham, DRO case conferences will be held every Tuesday and Friday morning from 9:30am to 12:30pm and every Wednesday and Thursday afternoon from 2:00pm to 5:00pm, with no more than 5 total conferences scheduled per half day.
- After a DRO case conference is scheduled, parties cannot schedule a case conference or settlement conference with a judge through the Trial Office until the completion of the conference with the DRO.
Rule 17 of the Family Law Rules & DRO Case Conferences
- Subject to (7), Rule 17 of the Family Law Rules applies to DRO case conferences, with respect to the documents that must be filed in advance of the case conference, including Form 14C Confirmation Form, which must be filed not later than 2:00pm, two business days prior to the date scheduled for the DRO case conference.
Role of the Dispute Resolution Officer
- A DRO is not permitted to:
- write consents for parties,
- make orders, on consent or otherwise, and
- award costs.
- A DRO is permitted to:
- hear all first case conferences for motions to change and other conferences specifically referred to a DRO by a Superior Court Justice,
- attempt to identify and resolve the outstanding issues on a consent basis,
- assist parties in organizing their issues and disclosure documents,
- assist parties in obtaining a signed consent order from a judge, where the parties have consented in writing at the DRO case conference, and
- complete a “Screening Report” which will be included as part of the court file, indicating the issues resolved, outstanding issues, and whether the conduct of either party has frustrated the objectives of the DRO case conference; a judge presiding at a subsequent conference or motion may rely on the notations in the Screening Report, after hearing submissions on the issues, in determining if costs are appropriate.
Next Step After Dispute Resolution Conference
- In Durham, upon completion of a DRO case conference, parties are permitted to schedule a case conference, settlement conference, or a motion in front of a judge as the next step.
Dated, February 22, 2011.
Regional Senior Judge, Central East