Technology helps families resolve disputes online

Court Press Release

August 27, 2020

Bookmark and Share

Technology helps families resolve parenting time disputes online

Families in Ottawa County can now resolve parenting time matters outside of the courtroom, thanks to new technology through Friend of the Court. Online Dispute Resolution enables parents to access their caseworkers at the 20th Circuit Court Friend of the Court office using their smartphone, tablet or computer. The Online Dispute Resolution platform can be viewed at

The Friend of the Court assists families with custody, parenting time and child support issues. They have long used a dispute resolution process where a caseworker meets with parents in-person to help them come to an agreement. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Friend of the Court caseworkers have continued to work with families remotely by telephone or ZOOM. Online Dispute Resolution extends the virtual option further.

Families using Online Dispute Resolution work with the caseworker on their parenting time issue, just like they would in-person. Throughout the online process, parents receive email and text message updates on the status of their case. Once at agreement, the caseworker prepares the legal document for all parties to review and sign electronically. Finally, the judge reviews and approves the agreement. The process replicates in-person dispute resolution adding convenience for people who cannot come to court for various reasons, including work, school, health or quarantine. The process also saves time and money for the public and the courts.

“This platform extends the court to people where they are and will help them reduce conflict and save time and money, which will benefit their children. We are proud to offer this option to Ottawa families,” said Chief Judge Jon Van Allsburg.

“We are committed to helping people resolve their issues outside of the courtroom. It is simpler for parents and more efficient for court staff, referees and judges. This platform helps us provide court services in an 'easy to access' yet powerful manner,” said Jennell Challa, Friend of the Court.

“Right now, the challenges our families are facing are compounded by the economic, health, and safety pressures of this pandemic. Now, more than ever, we seek to remove barriers to connecting to services,” said Matt Schmid, Assistant Friend of the Court

The platform is powered by Court Innovations software called Matterhorn. Matterhorn launched in three courts in Michigan in 2014 and has expanded year after year. To date, court users have handled over 100,000 cases online via Matterhorn and adoption of the platform continues to grow.

For more information about the Ottawa County Friend of the Court, visit


Media Contacts

Kevin Bowling | Administrator, 20th Circuit and Ottawa County Probate Courts | 616-786-4123

Jennell Challa | Ottawa County Friend of the Court | Email For Contact Details