What Is Domestic Relations Services – And Do I Want It?

On behalf of The Marks Law Firm, L.L.C. posted in Divorce on Thursday July 25, 2013

We talk a great deal on the blog about the high level of conflict in child custody cases, and suggest ways parents can reach resolution with less residual tensions. One wonderful resource in St. Louis County for those difficult issues is the Domestic Relations Services Unit (DRS).

All family court judges in St. Louis County understand the high cost of high conflict child custody disputes. The traditional litigation model, which pits the parents as adversaries, produces no real winners, only losers: parents feel unhappy, children remain in high conflict households with divided loyalty and unwanted guilt, and judges realize they lack the wisdom of Solomon and that their best judgment will still leave a family less functional than it could be if all parties had ownership in the process.

DRS helps facilitate that empowerment. Judges make referrals when they encounter high conflict cases that do not need more lawyers or expensive experts but experienced family counselors and coordinators. A DRS staffer meets with parents and children and gets a sense of the status of the family, the source and degree of its fragility, and the strengths and weaknesses of the parents to work together on behalf of the children. Through individual and group meetings, the DRS staffer will assist the parents in working through the major custody issues, often by focusing on the smaller stuff – the nuts and bolts of the parenting plan – which in reality cause much of the friction, because angry and hurt parents often feel most emotional over the small stuff. “Joint legal custody” has no immediate concrete reality, but counting the number of overnights or the hours spent with the children on a holiday does. Working through the concrete small stuff helps with the hurt and shows parents they can truly problem solve together.

DRS staffers serve other roles besides facilitators for parenting plans. They provide necessary services for cases of abuse or neglect, often serving as safe places for supervised visitation and helping to gradually rebuild trust and relationships. They provide low cost counseling for parents and families in crisis. They serve as parent coordinators to resolve post-dissolution disputes and help keep cases off the family access docket.

DRS provides a wide range of valuable services to the family court and the St. Louis County community.

If you have questions about Domestic Relations Services and whether to utilize their services in your case, contact us – we can help.