By Barbara A. Babb, University of Baltimore School of Law, Associate Professor of Law and Director, CFCC
In the face of the daily barrage of news about celebrity divorces, bitter custody battles, and the fortunes that must be divided, we at the Center for Families, Children and the Courts (CFCC) are reminded of the millions of people who face an adversarial and divisive family law system during the most difficult periods of their lives. In an unprecedented collaboration, the American Bar Association (ABA) Family Law Section and CFCC are co-sponsoring an invitation-only symposium on June 24-25 at the University of Baltimore to address how to change family law practice and theory to minimize the harm done to families as they navigate the family justice system. The pairing between the ABA and CFCC is a natural partnership, given that CFCC’s mission and work focus on family justice system reform aimed at finding ways to resolve these family conflicts in a more therapeutic, holistic, less adversarial manner.
Many parents and children enter the family justice system already dealing with serious issues – drug and alcohol abuse, family violence, mental illness, poverty, debilitating illness, and grief, to name a few. The acrimonious nature of family law litigation, exacerbated when children are involved, compounds families’ existing problems. Any remnants of a family’s strength and cohesiveness are damaged irreparably as lawyers engage in protracted and divisive litigation.
The “Families Matter” symposium is a significant step forward to attempt to minimize these destructive consequences – a well-timed and much-needed response to the often insurmountable negative outcomes experienced by families and children involved in the justice system. Over the course of two days, attorneys, judges, academics, accountants, social workers, mediators, and others are convening to engage in an interdisciplinary, facilitated discussion about the practice of family law and its impact on families. Planners expect these conversations to result in a number of innovative ideas and plans to form the basis for a multi-year initiative.
We at CFCC are delighted and excited to partner with the ABA Family Law Section for this influential initiative. As we work together to change the practice of family law from an adversarial and divisive process to one that focuses on methods that aim to improve the lives of families and children, we plan to develop solutions to some of the most difficult problems facing our justice system today. All of us – families, children, communities, schools, employers, businesses – stand to benefit from this initiative.
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