As Harrison County's only family law master, Drew Crislip has a full schedule.
He would like to see the responsibilities of his job increase, however, which could happen if voters approve a proposed state constitutional amendment this fall.
The Unified Family Court Amendment will allow the West Virginia Legislature to create a single, more powerful, judicial division designed to handle matters ranging from divorces to adoptions, Crislip said.
"I certainly am supportive of the Unified Family Court Amendment," he said Tuesday. "I think its passage will pave the way for a better family court system."
Both the West Virginia Judicial Association and the West Virginia Family Court Association recently passed resolutions endorsing the amendment's passage, according to Crislip.
A similar measure appeared on the 1998 ballot, but was defeated by voters, he said.
"It had as its goal some of the same things as this amendment," he said. "But it was very general, and would have given the Legislature broad authority."
This year's amendment is more refined, Crislip said.
"This one is much more specific," he said. "It gives (legislators) limited powers to establish a family court system."
The amendment will not require the legislature to take any action, Crislip said. It will only allow lawmakers to revamp the system.
Doing so will help streamline the court system, and relieve some of the circuit court's backlog, he said.
"Right now, this is not a constitutional office," he said, speaking of the Family Law Master's office. "I can't give final rulings on anything."
Those rulings, on such matters as divorces, must be finalized by a circuit judge, he said.
That is what often creates backlogs.
Passage of the amendment will make the law masters constitutional officers and make the family court equal to the circuit court system, Crislip said.
The unified system also will ensure that ongoing family matters are decided in the same court, he said. Currently, some issues are resolved in family court, while others are taken care of in circuit court.
Such a system also will mean that one judge will get to hear all issues relating to each family in ongoing issues, he said. That will lead to better service for families.
Crislip is available to speak to civic groups in an effort to better explain the implications of the proposed amendment. He is available at 627-2148.
Staff writer Paul Darst can be reached at 626-1404.