Family Court Services: A Reflection on 50 Years of Contributions
Mitchell Hamline School of Law Dispute Resolution Institute
January 1, 2012
Family Court Review, Vol. 51, No. 1, p. 48-55, January 2013
In the fifty years between 1963 and today, the family court landscape has entirely changed. In many jurisdictions, family court judges have access to a range of court services to refer parents to, from mediation, to parent education, to parenting coordination. Courts are more aware of and sensitive to issues of domestic and family violence and the special needs of nontraditional families. Bound by precedence, courts are generally not considered to be institutions which change rapidly and, in court time, fifty years is quite brief. How can one explain these changes? Certainly societal changes (e.g., the role of women in the workforce changed significantly since 1963 as did the number of people seeking divorce), overburdened civil court dockets, and legal changes (e.g., abrogation of the tender years doctrine and adoption of joint custody presumptions) all contributed to the need for courts to develop new ways of providing services but one cannot ignore the major role that the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) played as a catalyst to support and expand the provision of innovate court services to litigants and their families. In fact, if one looks at the significant discussions at AFCC conferences, which then developed into articles or special issues of Family Court Review and ultimately led to the development of guidelines, standards, or best practices either led by AFCC or with AFCC as a major contributor.
The author examines these contributions by reviewing them in the context of the major changes in family court services over the past five decades. The article will conclude with some speculation about the future.
Keywords: Family, divorce, custody, children, marriage, visitation, court, AFCC, Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, abrogation, conciliation, reconciliation, matrimony, mediation, guardianship, conflict, domestic violence, parenting coordination, alternative dispute resolution, ADR
JEL Classification: K00, K10, K12, K4, K41, K52
Date posted: February 14, 2013 ; Last revised: March 25, 2013