The Road to a Federal Family Court

58 Ct. Rev. 8 (2022)

7 Pages Posted: 27 Apr 2022

Date Written: April 20, 2022


This essay traces the federalization of family court dependency proceedings that has evolved over the last five decades. This process steadily built a complex statutory scheme that has implicated every aspect of the court’s jurisdiction over child protection/family regulation proceedings. To secure federal funding, states adopted federal definitions of abuse and neglect, complied with federal timeline mandates, and embraced federal dictates that redefined the bases for intervening in family integrity. Ultimately, with the passage of the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA), the family court was fully transformed from an independent judicial body whose jurisdiction was to determine whether the state had rightly intervened in a family’s life to protect a child—and, if so, to decide an appropriate disposition—into a willing partner in administering federal child welfare policy on a vast scale. And each time a new federal law has been created to require family court to review and monitor federal directives, more families have been shattered and most children have not been protected.

Suggested Citation

Spinak, Jane M., The Road to a Federal Family Court (April 20, 2022). 58 Ct. Rev. 8 (2022), Available at SSRN:

Jane M. Spinak (Contact Author)

Columbia Law School ( email )

435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10025
United States

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