John E. Colella of Cheshire has been anmed the state’s chief family support magistrate, effective Dec. 31, state Chief Court Administrator Patrick Carroll III announced.

Colella had a private practice focusing on family, real estate, probate and commercial law until becoming a regular family support magistrate since 2001. “I am flattered that Judge Carroll has appointed me to this position,” Colella said in a prepared statement. “I look forward to working with my colleagues as well as with the various agencies that work diligently to benefit the children of Connecticut.”

Colella will replace Chief Family Support Magistrate Sandra Sosnoff Baird, who has elected to become a family support magistrate referee. Like judge trial referees, family support referees work on a per diem basis

The state has eight family support magistrates and five family support referees who hear cases involving paternity and child and spousal support. They are not judges but perform some judicial functions. The governor appoints family support magistrates; the chief court administrator appoints the chief family support magistrate.

The position currently pays $134,554 annually, with the salary scheduled to increase to $141,686 as of July 1, 2014.

“Chief Family Support Magistrate Sosnoff Baird has greatly enhanced the Family Support Magistrate Division since she took over this position nearly six years ago. Throughout her tenure, she has sought creative and productive ways to help parents meet their financial obligations to their children, often through many obstacles and a daunting economy,” said Carroll said. “I am pleased that Magistrate Colella has accepted this position, and I am confident that he will continue to improve the Family Support Magistrate Division. He has extensive experience as a magistrate and as a mentor to new magistrates.”

Colella attended the University of Connecticut as an undergraduate before receiving his J.D. from Western New England University School of Law. Since becoming a family support magistrate more than a dozen years ago, he has served on various committees designed to improve the family court system, and was chair of the Family Commission’s Financial Affidavit Revision Subcommittee. He also has served as an alternate member of the Judicial Review Council, a faculty member of the 2013 Connecticut Judges Institute and a mentor to newly appointed magistrates.

Additionally, Colella received the New Opportunities Kay Wyrick Award, which recognizes efforts to reunite fathers, children and families.