A new court trustee office will open Monday to help divorced families with support and visitation problems.
In some families, divorce can mean problems for children and parents long after the final decree is signed.
Late child-support payments, forgotten alimony or ignored visitation schedules can leave parents tearing their hair out in frustration.
Starting Monday, most divorced parents won't have to solve such problems on their own or with the help of private attorneys. The Douglas County District Court Trustee Office will open to handle those problems.
Employees in the court trustee's office will host an open house between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Friday in their new office in the basement of the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center, 111 E. 11th.
The local court trustee program is the 17th established in the state. Its charge, according to Brian Farley, district court trustee, is to establish, modify and enforce both temporary and final child and spousal support orders that are related to parentage, divorce and protection from abuse cases.
Farley said the office would handle support and visitation matters arising from three types of cases -- those where children are receiving Aid to Dependent Children benefits, those where the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services is involved but no ADC benefits are being paid, and those where support orders have either been entered or modified since Jan. 1. Those cases are referred to as court trustee cases.
The office will be self-supporting once initial start-up costs of about $285,000 are reimbursed to the county, Farley said. Funding will come from user fees and federal incentives for collecting child support.
A 2 percent fee will be charged each month for non-ADC cases. A 5 percent fee will be charged for each court trustee case. No fees will be charged in ADC cases.
Money generated by the fees can be used only for enforcement or the reduction of fees charged to families. The goal is to have the office break even.
"It is my intent to lower that percentage (the fee charged for court trustee cases) as soon as possible," said District Judge Michael J. Malone. He noted that Johnson County, which established the state's first court trustee program in 1972, now charges a flat fee of $3 per case per month.
Malone said he viewed the program almost like insurance for families who need assistance in child support or visitation matters but can't afford to hire an attorney.
"Since all the money that is collected goes back into enforcement, we believe we will collect more child support, it will cost less money to collect it, and child support and visitation matters will be heard much quicker," he said.
A court trustee hearing officer will soon be hired to hear all disputes arising from child support or visitation matters.
The Douglas County District Court currently collects and distributes more than $400,000 in child support each month, Malone said.