The CUYAHOGA COUNTY DOMESTIC RELATIONS COURT, established in 1920 as the Domestic Relations Bureau, is a subdivision of the Court of Common Pleas. It has full equitable power and jurisdiction over all domestic-relations matters, including authority to terminate marriages, divide property, and determine child custody and support payments. Located in the old CUYAHOGA COUNTY COURTHOUSE on Lakeside Ave., in 1995 the Domestic Relations Court consisted of 5 judges, 5 trial referees, and 7 Central Motion Docket (CMD) referees. Cases were heard only by the judges or their trial referees, while the CMDs entertained all pre- and postdecree motions.
Alarmed at the rising number of divorce suits early in the 20th century, common pleas court judges established the Domestic Relations Bureau. The bureau's goal was to prevent divorce, thereby saving Cleveland from gaining a reputation as a "divorce center." Since many applicants were from out of state, the bureau investigated residence qualifications of those seeking divorce and, when possible, reconciled the litigants. The bureau forwarded domestic-relations cases to the common pleas judges, who heard divorce cases as "fillers" between regular civil cases. In 1929 a new Domestic Relations Court replaced the bureau. All domestic matters were then assigned to one courtroom and heard by the common pleas judges on a rotating basis. By 1944 Cuyahoga County remained the only large Ohio county without a permanent domestic-relations court with judges specifically elected for the position. In 1959 the Ohio legislature voted to create a Domestic Relations Branch of the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas and to create 2 new judicial positions for that court.
Five departments comprised the Division of Domestic Relations in the 1990s. The Family Conciliation Service, created in 1979, included a psychologist, a psychiatrist, and 4 social workers who attempted to help mediate litigants' differences. The Legal Department's 4 attorneys provided legal research and assisted judges and referees. The Department of Investigations was called into cases at the court's discretion. The Bureau of Child Support enforced child- and spousal-support orders. A Mediation Department was established in 1990. In 1995 Frank Pokorny served as court administrator.
See also LAW.