By Maria Iliadis, CFCC Student Fellow 2014-2015
On September 17, 2014, the Center for Families, Children and the Courts (“CFCC”) Student Fellows visited the Family Division of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City located at 111 North Calvert Street in Baltimore. We received a tour from T. Sue German, the Family Division Administrator.
The tour was a great opportunity to see how the Unified Family Court system operates. The Family Division strives to efficiently resolve matters involving families, such as, divorce, guardianship, child support, custody, and visitation matters. Further we learned that approximately 88% of litigants appear pro se.
The Family Division tailors its approach to each individual family to address the family’s specific needs. The Family Division has many resources for the variety of clients with which it deals. For example, in the case of contested issues, the Family Division provides educational seminars such as COPE and SHAPE for parents and mediation if there are custody and visitation issues. Also, at scheduling conferences, the Family Division refers clients to other resources to address their needs, such as referrals to substance abuse services, for custody evaluations, and for other social services.
The tour revealed that the Family Division has faced budget cuts in recent years, however, which is surprising in light of the volume of cases that are dealt with in the Family Division. On a given day, attorneys at the Family Division Pro Se Project assist approximately 35-40 litigants. Further, cutting back on the resources available to the Family Division impedes its ability to effectively and efficiently deal with all the litigants’ issues it confronts.
The actual facility itself was very warm and inviting for the families and children who frequent it. The walls are adorned with art made by children in the community, and there is a staffed playroom for children while their parents attend to their various matters at the Family Division. It was really wonderful to have the opportunity to tour.