November CBA Report

F or several years, I have observed parents walk into my court- room and look at their surroundings with apprehension, as if they are entering a battlefield. Their facial expressions and body language showed their anger, fear, sadness, devastation, confusion and regret. My job is to help them and their attorneys navigate the legal process as easily and painlessly as possible, with the goal of producing effective and positive outcomes for their children. Not an easy task! Sometimes the parents can only resolve their differences by having a trial. More often than not, however, families work through their parenting issues in a cooperative manner. That process is heart- ening and satisfying to witness. Hamilton County Domestic Relations Court offers many services to assist parents as they navigate the process of resolving their disputes, including mediation, early neutral evaluation and parenting investigations. Now, there is another way we assist Hamilton County families to solve their issues in court with the focus being to reduce stress, anger and tension by promoting a more calm and temperate environment. I have altered my courtroom to better meet the needs of the families that come here. Domestic Relations Courtroom 2-25 is now a place where natural sunlight streams in through the windows, the walls are covered with large canvasses of serene park landscapes and the attorneys’ trial tables have been replaced with one oversized conference room table and comfortable chairs. Also carefully placed upon the wall, facing the parents, are the words “In the best interests of the CHILD,” reminding all in the courtroom the motto and statutory mandate of this court. Beginning from the time I took the bench four years ago, I have dreamed of creating a less stressful and anger- filled courtroom. I engaged in research on the impact of design and environment on people, and I care- fully considered how I wanted the courtroom space to impact the families of Hamilton County. My goal is to encourage the parties to be inspired to work together, rather than against each other. To that end, over the past 12 months, I have worked with others on this project. The fruits of our labor are now revealed. The message to those who enter my courtroom is this: “Welcome. Let’s sit down together and calmly discuss the issues your family is facing. We are here to help you.” Making Family Court Calmer Beginning With the Courtroom By Judge Amy L. Searcy Pictures of local parks on display in Judge Searcy’s courtroom. November 2018 CBA REPORT l 5 Cover Article