People who find themselves in the domestic relations division of the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas are now able to use an app starting Aug. 8 to trace the case and pay child support.
A year and a half in the making, the app – which is free and available for iOS and Android phones – is the first of its kind in an Ohio domestic relations court, said Judge Francine B. Goldberg, who spearheaded the effort to launch the app, called CourtConnect.
“I think this is going to be a game changer,” said Goldberg, adding she expects the app to help lawyers and litigants, who may represent themselves in court, in getting notifications and following the cases. “They can access the child support portal. They can look at current forms. And they can pay court costs in domestic relations court.”
Goldberg said those who wish to sign up for the app will need to provide a valid email address to the clerk of courts to do so.
“I believe that it’s proactive,” she said, adding that the app will be free and require only the valid email address to sign up. A Google search of Cuyahoga County CourtConnect will bring a user to the website where one can sign up.
Goldberg contrasted the legal representation guaranteed as a constitutional right for criminal defendants with those involved in civil litigation. She said approximately 60 percent of the cases at the Cuyahoga County domestic relations court have at least one self-represented litigant.
Goldberg credited Administrative Judge Leslie Ann Celebrezze for making resources available for the project. The court used the services of an existing contractor to develop the software for the application.
“There’s transparency. I think it’s going to increase efficiencies,” Goldberg said. “We need to be a step ahead. I really think this takes us to the next step in how courts do business.”
The app builds on an earlier initiative of Judge Rosemary Grdina Gold, who spearheaded the opening of a help center in May of 2017.
In its first year of business in the Old Courthouse at 1 West Lakeside Ave., Cleveland, 9,412 people used the services at the help center, which include access to computers and court forms and assistance with accurately filing paperwork. A full-time licensed attorney works at the help center with a staff of four, providing assistance to self-represented litigants on how to navigate through the legal system. The lawyer does not provide help with legal advice, strategy and research.
In 2018, the help center averaged 41.3 visits per week and averaged 27.6 phone calls per week.
Goldberg said the launch of the CourtConnect app was a logical next step.
“This is the first version, so we’re just going to build on it from feedback that we obtain from domestic relations court staff as well as the families that come to our court,” Goldberg said. “We want to build on this foundation. Really, it’s about customer service and it’s about access to justice for families.”