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Official New family court system likely in place soon

by Paul Darst

STAFF WRITER

As early as the next legislative session, West Virginia could have a new family court system.

Although the constitutional amendment approved by voters Tuesday does not require action, Harrison County's Family Law Master believes lawmakers could take swift action.

"This will allow West Virginia to put in place a system used by over half the states in the country," Crislip said Wednesday.

"I think the legislature will act on this, and act on it swiftly."

The amendment will allow the legislature to create a unified family court system, Crislip said. Currently, matters that would be handled in such a court are settled in various other courts.

Family law masters are under the circuit court system. Under the possible legislative action that now can happen, family law judges would be equal to circuit judges, and would handle all family law matters, he said.

"We would handle everything from the cradle to the grave," he said.

Having one court handling all family matters would be beneficial to citizens, Crislip said.

"Sometimes, and family will separate because of domestic violence," he said. "Then, they would get divorced All those matters would be taken care of by the same court."

The family law judge would be more familiar with all the issues surrounding each case and could, therefore, result in better judgments.

The amendment was supported by the West Virginia Family Court Association. They worked hard to get word out about the benefits of the amendments and now will focus on lobbying lawmakers to pass the legislation.

The association will give its input into the process, Crislip said.

"I think the (legislative) leadership is supportive in establishing this system," he said. "I anticipate something will pass."

Staff writer Paul Darst can be reached at 626-1404 or by e-mail at pdarst@exponent-telegram.com.

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