What is the Second Judicial District Court Clinic?
The Second Judicial District Court Clinic is a service provided by the Court for parties when they are unable to agree on timesharing (custody). Parties are referred to the Clinic by order of a District Judge (Family Court). The Clinic is staffed by professional counselors and therapists who investigate the case and make recommendations. Often times the Court will adopt these recommendations after a hearing.
The Court Clinic offers three basic services: mediation, advisory consultations, and finally priority consultations. In many cases, parties start with mediation, where they meet with the Court clinicians and without lawyers. If timesharing issues cannot be worked-out, the parties often times are referred to an Advisory Consultation.
During an Advisory Consultation, the Court clinicians meet with the parties separately, as well as the children and nearly anyone else who might have helpful information. Interviews and testing is conducted in an effort to craft a parenting plan that's in the best interests of the children. The process is lengthy, costly to both parties, and invasive.
The final tier of services is the Priority Consultation. This is a more extreme measure and the process is designed to determine whether children are in an immediate threat.
Sometimes in highly contested cases, the Judge will appoint a Guardian Ad Litem which is an attorney who is hired to represent the interests of the child(ren). These attorneys are paid for by the parties.
If the parties are still unable to come to an agreement with respect to timesharing, the next step is a full-blown Custody Evaluation Hearing. This is usually a very costly endeavor where private psychologists and other experts are retained by the parties to prove which parent is better suited for primary parental responsibility.