Del. Panel Continues Look at Opening Family Court to Public - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Del. Panel Continues Look at Opening Family Court to Public

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(Photo: WBOC) (Photo: WBOC)

DOVER, Del. (WBOC) - Delaware continues to try to figure out if, and how, the state's family court system should be open to the public. Currently, it's closed.

And the task force looking into that met Tuesday. Members have voted to recommend that in most situations a number of kinds of cases, such as divorce or alimony, and to some extent custody and visitation hearings, should be presumed open. The task force has voted to keep adoption hearings closed. A final decision on what to do with its recommendations still rests with the full Delaware general assembly.

Matt Watson has been through the family court system. He says he had significant issues during that process.

"I don't think stuff like this would happen if there were witnesses, if the court was open," he said. "If someone says something inappropriate, and it doesn't show up in the records, there are witnesses. It all comes down to accountability and transparency."

Multiple members of the public who spoke at a hearing before Tuesday's meeting echoed Watson's sentiments.

"I have a tremendous amount of faith in our judicial branch and all the judges that are in family court," said Hon. Chandlee Kuhn, chief judge of Delaware family court. "However, whenever there is a question of public trust and confidence, we have to earn the public's trust."

Opponents of letting the public into family court have safety and confidentiality concerns, for example worrying bank account information might come out in open court.

Brendan Buschi is a licensed social worker. He says the most important people to consider here are the kids involved in these cases.

"If you open the court," he said. "Then you will be on day one of improving what goes on in the court. But until the court is open, nothing will change."

The task force's final report is due to the general assembly in mid-February, though members are asking for an extension into April.

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