Domestic Relations Program Comes to a Close after 19 Years

Since 1992, volunteers in CASA of the Pikes Peak Region’s Domestic Relations program have been advocating for the best interest of children involved in highly conflictive domestic relations (custody) disputes.

Judges request CASA’s services for fact-finding on these domestic relations cases and a CASA volunteer is appointed to the case after completion of the core initial advocacy training.

A recent Colorado Supreme Court Directive (04-08) designed to strengthen regulations for privately paid Child & Family Investigators, has inadvertently impacted CASA’s ability to provide volunteer advocacy through the Domestic Relations (DR) program. The new directive nullifies CASA’s ability to participate as child advocates in a volunteer capacity on domestic relations cases. CASA would no longer be allowed to provide training or supervision to these volunteers; instead they would be required to attend state training and be certified by the state as private, independent child & family investigators. Therefore, the CASA Board of Directors determined the Domestic Relations program no longer fits the CASA mission to provide a volunteer’s voice in court for children, and the program will be dissolved.

CASA’s Domestic Relations program began in 1992 when the Chief Judge of the 4th Judicial District, and many other judges, requested that CASA expand into DR cases. They believed that often children involved in these cases were emotionally abused at a minimum and in some cases had allegations of sexual or physical abuse. CASA’s key objective was to keep the child out of the middle of the conflict and to help ascertain appropriate custody. The information CASA DR volunteers provided to judges was crucial in helping make the best decisions on the child’s behalf.

“I am sorry to hear about the termination of the [CASA DR] program,” said 4th Judicial District Judge Robert L. Lowrey. “I was hoping we could find a way to work around 04-08 as currently structured. I want to thank CASA for all the support that has been provided the domestic bench and families of this region over the years.”

Over 19 years CASA has served more than 1,000 children in the Domestic Relations program.

“We are saddened and disappointed that we will no longer be able to provide this program in the Pikes Peak region,” said CASA Executive Director Trudy Strewler Hodges. “Children caught in the middle of extreme divorce disputes will no longer have a CASA volunteer advocate’s voice in court.”

CASA thanks the nearly 40 DR volunteers for their incredible work on behalf of children. The value of their work cannot be diminished, because it lives on in the hearts and minds of the children and their parents. We also extend our great appreciation to DR program staff Sunni Ball and Mary Houchin for their years of service and commitment to the well-being of children.

CASA of the Pikes Peak Region was the only CASA agency in Colorado that was operating a Domestic Relations program.

Important Note:  None of CASA’s other programs are affected by the court directive. The core volunteer advocacy program for abused and neglected children involved in Dependency and Neglect cases is operating normally and is not affected by these changes. The Supervised Exchange and Parenting Time program and the Children and Families in Transition class are also operating normally.