Hundreds of children in Pierce County are the subject of custody disputes. They live in a state of uncertainty and reduced well-being as long as the conflict continues. Timely resolution minimizes the pain and damages these children and their families experience. Reducing the time to dispute resolution is facilitated by a dedicated and well-managed judiciary.
Pierce County Family Court continues its mission to resolve high-conflict family court cases in an expedited manner. The time these children have to wait to know where they are going to live has significantly reduced.
In 2010, 1,281 new cases were assigned to the Family Court, and 1,341 cases were resolved. Nearly 85 percent of the cases were resolved by trial, agreement or dismissal in 12 months or less.
Relocation cases receive the highest priority and present some of the most challenging decisions for family court judicial officers. Almost all of these cases were resolved within six months.
There are continuing challenges:
- The lack of county and state resources to help meet the needs of indigent parents who need a Guardian ad Litem or to supply pro tem judges to try more cases.
- The high unemployment and military deployments putting pressure on families and increasing the demand on resources
- The increasing number of people representing themselves in court (pro se).
“Family Court is a success. It works, but there is a cost,” said Family Court Presiding Judge John Hickman. “It continues to need support from government leaders to ensure proper funding, continued volunteer services by the private bar and the continued support of judicial officers and staff who are dedicated to the well-being and safety of countless children in harm’s way. I am confident that in 2011 these challenges will be met with continued success.”
More information about Family Court, including a four-page report on the court’s performance in 2010, is available here: www.co.pierce.wa.us/pc/abtus/ourorg/supct//familycourt.htm.