From the Honorable Thomas J Dignan

The year 2015 has been a busy one in the Probate and Family Court of Honorable Thomas J. Dignan. To enlighten those of you who may not know what we do, the Family Court handles all cases involving juvenile delinquency, abuse and neglect, minor guardianships, personal protection orders and divorces involving children. We also processed 60 adoptions this year.

We’ve had 344 petitions filed so far this year, which includes abuse and neglect and delinquency matters, a significant increase over the past two years. Our juvenile probation department is currently working with 92 families. Our Court, unlike adult court, is rehabilitative in nature.

Many of our kids come from situations with severe challenges. Therefore, we can’t just punish kids and send them back to the same problems, which contributed to their poor decision-making. If we don’t strive to improve the environment for these kids they will likely end up right back in court. Our four probation officers do an outstanding job of working with these families in our office, in the schools and in the home. Also in the homes we have had grant funded after-hours supervision teams visiting families unannounced. These families, all with a son or daughter on intensive probation, are visited by our team during evening and weekend hours. It allows a higher level of supervision and support to the families during the times they need it the most.

The Shiawassee County Youth Center is a critical piece of the Family Court puzzle. The Youth Center works with our court-involved kids in a number of capacities. Kids out of school for suspension or expulsion spend their days at the Youth Center keeping up with their assignments. The Center is staffed with a certified teacher provided by the Shiawassee RESD as well as our Youth Center staff.

During the summer the Youth Center utilizes Compass Learning to enable the kids to make up missing credits. Our kids earned 37 half credits in the credit recovery program in 2015. The Youth Center also coordinates community service projects for youth who have been ordered by the Court to perform service hours. This past summer our students worked many hours in the gardens at DeVries Nature Conservancy harvesting a wide range of vegetables for the Hunger Network and the Farmers Market. They also helped SafeCenter with landscaping projects and a much needed Playscape for the residents. Other community service projects were trash pick-up and weed whipping at the county parks and the care and maintenance of flowerbeds in downtown Owosso.

On the Probate side we handle estates, trusts, wills for safekeeping, guardianships and conservatorships of adults, minors and developmentally disabled, protective orders, mental commitment hearings, name changes, secret marriages and drain appeals. We currently have 861 open cases, which is an increase from last year.

As you can tell we have a very busy court. Our staff is here to serve you and help in any way we can.

Family and Probate Court – 2015 was last modified: December 28th, 2015 by Karen Elford