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New family court annex opens in Wayne

Mar. 08, 2013 @ 11:26 PM

WAYNE -- State and county officials joined Friday in opening a new family court annex for Wayne County.

The annex provides significantly more space with state-of-the-art security, all located in a building located across from the Wayne County Courthouse. The family court facilitates 2,000 hearings a year with 600 new divorces filed, estimated Wayne Family Court Judge Stephen Lewis.

The judge said the annex and its furnishings show respect to those served, for many of whom family court may be their first and only interaction with the state's judicial system.

"You don't want it to be some little side show," Lewis said. "A facility like this shows the county government, the state government takes this seriously -- the trauma of divorce."

County Commissioner Bob Pasley estimated the annex cost nearly $600,000 in county tax dollars. The state Supreme Court of Appeals contributed additional funds for security and furnishings.

Lewis made specific mention of security noting his bench contains bulletproof material. He explained that and other features are important as national trends show family courts face an increased risk of violence compared to criminal and civil courts.

Pasley also celebrated Friday's opening saying it marked one step in a multi-phase construction plan. In July, officials hope to gather again to open new offices for the county assessor and probation departments. They will be located next door to the family court annex.

"We should not be building for next week," Pasley said at the ceremony. "We should be building for 15 years down the road, 20 years down the road and we think this facility does that."

The long range plan is for the annex's lower level to be remodeled for magistrate court. Together, those projects will open enough space so the County Commission can return to the courthouse and a new circuit court room can be built inside.

The County Commission and assessor's land office currently operate in rental property adjacent to the courthouse.

Follow Curtis Johnson via Twitter @curtisjohnsonHD and http://facebook.com/curtisjohnsonHD.

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