Court wants to know how it can better handle family matters

Posted Dec. 22, 2013, at 2:32 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — A task force created to gather information on how the courts can better deal with family matters will hold a series of public hearing around the state in January.

The group is seeking input from the public as well as members of the legal community, according to Tony Trask, a Bangor lawyer with Rudman Winchell who is a member of Family Division Task Force.

The family division was designed to handle cases involving divorce, parental rights and responsibility, child support, grandparents’ visitations, protective custody and protection from abuse.

“One of the things that comes up all the time is the cost of litigation for people who have lawyers and the time factor those who don’t,” he said Friday. “It’s not necessarily the amount of time from start to finish a case may take, but how many times you have to go to court to get the result you’re hoping for.”

Joy Trueworthy, who specializes in family law at Gross, Minsky and Mogul in Bangor, said some changes will be implemented after the first of the year that could make divorce cases involving children go a bit more smoothly. Trueworthy said a meeting was held Dec. 10 at the Penobscot Judicial Center to discuss them.

“The court’s concerned that it does not have enough time for hearings and that creates a lot of uncertainty for families,” she said. “There are going to be changes in how blocks of time are scheduled and there will be a mediator available earlier in the divorce process.”

Trueworthy’s colleague Steven Mogul said that one change will allow couples with children involved in child custody disputes to get temporary orders earlier in the process so they aren’t bickering about visitation schedules.

Trask said that because more than half the people who have cases in family court represent themselves, it important that the task force hear from them.

“We want to make sure the system is accessible,” he said. “We need to know how process the works for them and how it might be made even better.”

Public hearings will be held from 4:15 to 6 p.m. on the following dates in the following locations: Jan. 6, Presque Isle District Court; Jan. 7, Calais District Court; Jan. 8, Penobscot Judicial Center; Jan. 9, Rockland District Court; Jan. 13, Lewiston District Court; Jan. 14, Portland District Court; Jan. 15, Springvale District Court; Jan. 16, Augusta District Court.

Public comments may be limited in duration and speakers should not reference specific cases, according to a press release issued Friday by the court system. Written comments may be emailed to lawcourt.clerk@courts.maine.gov, or mailed to State of Maine, Administrative Office of the Courts, 171 State House Station, 24 Stone Street, 1st Bldg., 1st Floor, Augusta, ME 04333-0171. Comments will be accepted until 5 p.m. Jan. 24.

For more details, please visit the Maine Judicial Branch website at www.courts.maine.gov/news_reference/news/index.shtml.

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