Dear Sanilac County Residents:
I would like to start off by thanking all of you for electing me as our county’s circuit court judge. It is a dream come true for me to be able to serve all of you in this capacity, and I am thoroughly enjoying it. I also need to thank Judge Gregory S. Ross and all of the courthouse staff for making my transition from private practice into public service a seamless one. It is hard to believe that I have already been on the bench for over six months. To that end, I want to provide all of you with an update highlighting some of the progress and changes that the Sanilac County Circuit Court and Friend of the Court Office (overseen by the circuit court judge) have been making since I began on January 1, 2021.
- A new standard parenting time guideline for the Sanilac County Friend of the Court was adopted on March 2, 2021 and can be found online. This is a major change for unmarried parents and children in our county. If two parents are unable to reach an agreement regarding custody and parenting time, our new standard provides the non-custodial parent with 150 overnights per year so long as the parties live within the same school district, the same county, or 35 miles of each other. This was changed from 90 overnights per year previously.
Non-custodial parents who do not live within the same county, same school district, or within 35 miles of each other but live within 125 miles of each other are now receiving 100 overnights per year under the new standard instead of 90 overnights. Moreover, a non-custodial parent who resides over 125 miles from the custodial parent now has the opportunity to receive 90 overnights per year instead of the approximately 55 overnights that were taking place previously. Finally, our county is also granting equal overnights to both parents more often than in the past.
The goal of all of the above changes is to allow each child an opportunity to have two actively involved parents and a close relationship with each of them.
- A One-Step jury process has been implemented in our county to streamline jury service, eliminate quarterly juror orientations, and to minimize the cost and time of our jury board. This will not only save our residents time, it will save our county several thousands of dollars per year.
- The law library at the courthouse has been eliminated, and the subscriptions to physical books for research use have been greatly reduced. To that end, the use of online research tools are being expanded. This will also save our county thousands of dollars per year and will also allow $4,500.00 in penal fines to be used by other libraries located in our county rather than by the courthouse law library.
- Earlier this year, I requested that the State Court Administrative Office perform a study regarding the cost of our circuit court handling criminal cases, which has resulted in an increase in the amount of court costs charged to each defendant sentenced in circuit court criminal cases by $153.60 per case. This should increase our county’s revenue by a few thousand dollars per year.
- Fines have also been increased for most circuit court criminal cases, which should increase revenue for our state, which benefits Michigan taxpayers.
- A new 2021 Sanilac County Friend of the Court Handbook was adopted and can be found online.
- An updated Sanilac County Friend of the Court Parenting Time Disputes and Makeup Parenting Time Policy was adopted on March 2, 2021 and can be found online.
- A new Sanilac County Friend of the Court policy was implemented to trigger a hearing in circuit court forcing a parent to show why he or she should not be held in contempt when the parent has been withholding a child from the child’s other parent and 10 or more overnights of makeup parenting time have been awarded.
- A new Local Administrative Order has been adopted providing a greater number of family law cases in circuit court a more direct route to an evidentiary hearing to shorten the process for litigants.
- A new Local Administrative Order has been adopted waiving circuit court arraignments in criminal cases to slightly shorten the process for litigants.
- A new policy has been adopted regarding the excusal, postponement, and exemption of potential jurors to allow our residents to receive an answer to their requests faster than in the past.
- A modification to our bailiff scheduling was made, which should also result in a noticeable savings to our county’s budget.
- Looking forward, circuit court software updates will be taking place this fall at our county clerk’s office in an effort to make our court more efficient.
- Additionally, we are actively working towards the implementation of an electronic filing (e-file) system for all of our courts.
Finally, our courthouse is now fully open to the public. As always, please feel free to provide any questions, comments, criticism, or compliments with regards to our circuit court to the staff at our county clerk’s office. I wish all of you the best.
Timothy C. Wrathell
Circuit Court Judge