County fees to pay for court facilitator
July 3, 2008 · Updated 1:09 PM
"It's going to cost you more to get married in Island County. But it may come back to you someday if you ever need a divorce.On Monday, the Island County Commissioners approved an increase in the marriage license fee and a new surcharge for filing a domestic relations cases with the Island County Superior Court.The fee for a marriage license jumps by $15 to a total of $52. The court filing surcharge increases by $10. It's expected that the boost will bring in about $12,000 more dollars each year.Money collected from the fee hikes will be used to create a new position of court facilitator. A facilitator will help people navigate through the legal red tape of domestic litigation such as divorce, adoption, paternity and domestic violence.Superior Court Administrator Delilah George said 29 of Washington state's 39 counties have court facilitators in place. They work mainly with people who are trying to make it through the court system without an attorney. George said more than half of the people filing divorce cases in Island County this year have chosen not to hire a lawyer, often because of the high cost.Facilitators make sure the litigants get the proper forms and fill them out correctly. They also help the parties with scheduling. They do not offer legal advice, said George. Use of the facilitator is not mandatory.Superior Court Judge Vicki Churchill said that people who can't afford an attorney sometimes get unequal access to justice. They're not able to access the system because they don't understand it, she said. We hope that with the facilitator program we can open the door for them.It may also help speed things up in the courtroom. With no facilitator, courts currently have to spend valuable time sorting out paperwork that has been inaccurately completed, said George.In another attempt to make things run smoother, George said the Superior Court will also be coming out with a new set of forms and a self-help center to make the process less confusing. Court officials may also post information and instructions on the Web site in the future.The commissioners are expected to approve the court facilitator position in the county's new budget in December. Currently, the position calls for the facilitator to work one full day, or perhaps two half days per week. "