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Navigating the Legal System with the Help of Bristol County Probate and Family Court Registry

By Marina I. Jokic

Gina L. DeRossi is the Register of Probate at Bristol County, and along with her staff, administers the local Probate Court in a public customer service role and partly as clerk for the probate judge. The position is jurisdictionally elected in Massachusetts, and as such, the registry has legal authority over probate and family-related matters.

The court handles divorces, child support and custody cases, guardianships, adoptions, name changes, probate of estates and a series of other legal matters. Pretty much everyone passes through the court registry's doors at some point in his or her life.

DeRossi points out that she funds and maintains the registry website at no expense to the taxpayer in an effort to provide clear instructions and helpful guidelines for people planning their visit. "Before going to court, people should ensure that they have all of their paperwork in order," DeRossi says. Good organization and a presentable demeanor can take you a long way in court, she advises. Of course, as you will inevitably run into questions and convoluted legal jargon, DeRossi and her team are there to make sure your documents are in order and you are prepared to handle your case.

"Showing up to court on time, prepared and looking neat go a long way to ensure a better experience in court," she emphasizes.  Also, it's always advisable to check the registry website for any important and up-to-date information and news. There is a convenient Self-Help section that guides litigants on the best way to conduct oneself in court, and offers some basic tips and advice for preparing people to navigate the legal system.

For those choosing to represent themselves, the registry's website offers guidelines and recommendations. Representing yourself in front of a judge is no small matter, and DeRossi wants to make sure that people are given the necessary resources to prepare themselves adequately.

"Almost every person will visit the Probate and Family Court at some time in their life?whether it's for a divorce, guardianship, or to probate an estate...this court serves all people," DeRossi says.  As a result, DeRossi takes her professional responsibility of serving the public very seriously. Ensuring that people are treated fairly, compassionately and respectfully is the registry's primary goal.

Community outreach events are an effective way of maintaining and nurturing the registry's relationship with local residents. Appearances at Councils on Aging to teach the public about the procedures and processes of estate planning, hosting local students on tours and as interns, showcasing the art of local student artists are an important part of the registry's activities. In addition, showcasing the art of local artists and speaking at colleges and law school about the role of the court is part and parcel of the mission and efforts of the Probate and Family Court Registry.

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About The Author

Marina Jokic holds a bachelor's degree from Connecticut College in Russian and East...

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