Sue Chrisman was appointed family court commissioner in the Springfield-based circuit court in 2007. Amid emotional and stressful family litigation, she brings humor and compassion to help the parties achieve a fair outcome.
What are some of your proudest career accomplishments? My proudest career accomplishment since I have been a family court commissioner is initially proposing a change in the law as to who may file family access motions. This is a statute that exists so that parents who are not receiving contact with their child under a court’s order may quickly get to court to have that issue addressed. Prior to an amendment that recently passed, it was only available to parents who had been married. With the assistance of our local legislators including Kevin Austin and Bob Dixon, the statute was amended two years ago to allow unmarried parents to gain fast access to the court system and I am tremendously proud of my role in proposing the change.
What has been your favorite part of the job? My favorite part of the job is trying to help people navigate through some of the emotional upheavals that family litigation brings. I will say that this is also some of the most challenging part of the job. I try to help parents understand that they need to pull together for the welfare of their child. Parents who are “high conflict” have a hugely detrimental impact on their child. I try to assist in helping them gain insight that they are only harming the one being in this world that they profess to love if they insist on continuing to hate the other parent more than loving this child.
What is something that would surprise people about you? Prior to becoming a lawyer, I was a prize-winning television photographer. I won a National Press Photographer Association award as well as a regional Emmy. I have also been a non-prize-winning motel maid, in addition to training horses and being a computer programmer (in the days that computers would only fit in a 20-by-20 room). As far as a more present surprise: I have started riding my friend’s mule in competitive obstacle course events.
What is the best advice you’ve ever given or received? “Everything always works out for the best.”
When you were growing up, what did you want to be? A cowgirl.