With the opening of four new courtrooms devoted to processing family conflict cases, navigating the legal system just became easier for Baltimore families.
"Litigants get lost as they are shuffled from the medical services offices on one floor to the courtroom to the assignment office," said Baltimore City Circuit Judge Albert J. Matricciani Jr.
"Once we finish building this out, 99 percent of our services will be within arm's reach," Matricciani said.
"That means a quicker resolution of more family disputes ... and a more user-friendly system for people who are often unrepresented."
The new courtrooms, on the first floor of Courthouse East on North Calvert Street, are the first phase of a new physical plant for the Circuit Court's family division.
By the end of the year, all Circuit Court family division courtrooms and offices will be on one floor.
The family division also will add such features as a child-friendly waiting room with child care for families in court.
Often in family court cases, people need assistance beyond their legal case, said T. Sue German, family division coordinator for Baltimore City Circuit Court.
A couple who are divorcing may have problems with substance abuse, domestic violence, mental illness or poverty, she noted.
"The whole purpose behind the family division is to create a situation where we are assisting families above and beyond their legal issues," German said.
The Circuit Court for Baltimore City has operated a family division since 1996.
Matricciani estimates that 2,000 to 3,000 people per day visit Baltimore City Circuit Court for cases involving family conflicts.
In 65 percent of family division cases, litigants do not have lawyers.