November 22, 2014

Elyria
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Delay sought to save Family Court

ELYRIA — To keep the Family Court proposal alive, the county’s Domestic Relations judges have asked the county commissioners to delay their decision on the court until 2010.

Domestic Relations Judge David Berta told commissioners during the Aug. 23 meeting that he and his fellow judges were willing to delay the merger of court divisions, which the county commissioners have said would prove too costly to do given the county’s tight budget.

Under a Family Court, the domestic relations and probate divisions of the Common Pleas Court would merge, allowing for the same judge to hear divorces, adoptions, child custody and other issues involving the same family.

Under the current system, a family may end up before two judges, because adoptions are probate matters, while custody disputes and divorces land in Domestic Relations Court.

The plan, which was approved by the legislature in 2005, came under fire in July from commissioners, who were concerned about the additional personnel salaries and the money needed for changes to the county Justice Center in light of a looming budget shortfall.

Although they passed a resolution Aug. 2 rescinding their support, Commissioner Ted Kalo said he’ll continue reviewing the financial aspects of Berta’s recommendation before making his final decision.

“We’re just finishing up with a way to work it out so that it doesn’t cost the county government more money,” he said.
The legislation approved by the state calls for Lorain County to combine the two courts in 2009, but state Rep. Joe Koziura, D-Lorain, has said he plans on introducing legislation this fall to keep the courts separate.

Under Berta’s latest proposal, the status of the court would remain the same with three judges handling domestic relations and juvenile cases.

 A fourth judge would handle Probate Court with the understanding that the judge would likely become a full Family Court judge in 2010.

Berta still maintains that by combining procedures and processes within the court, the Family Court would save local citizens money.

Contact Stephen Szucs at 336-4016 or sszucs@chroniclet.com