Families Matter: Reforming the Family Law Process

It is hard to believe it already has been almost six months since CFCC and the ABA Section of Family Law co-sponsored the Families Matter Symposium. We at CFCC are excited about the work that has been done since the symposium to expand the Families Matter initiative. Because of the partnerships that this initiative created – among CFCC, the ABA, the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC), and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ), to name a few – we are able to tackle the issue of family law reform from every angle, something that has been a struggle in the past.

In the coming months and years, we will work together with our partners to ensure that therapeutic reform touches legal and court structures, relevant service providers from across disciplines, and the lawyers and other legal actors who work so closely with families. It is our hope that family law horror stories – from cutthroat attorneys who seemingly care nothing for the havoc wreaked on their clients’ lives to disjointed, overtaxed systems that extend the time, agony, and unpredictability of already explosive situations – will dwindle and eventually become a thing of the past as this comprehensive, nationwide effort takes its hold.

CFCC currently is involved in many projects relating to the Families Matter initiative:

  • In the coming months, CFCC plans to publish and share a final report from the Families Matter Symposium – complete with insights into the problems underlying family justice system dysfunction across the country, proposed solutions, and concrete action steps that interested parties can take to help ensure that the reform vision becomes a reality.
  • In a similar vein, CFCC has devoted an entire issue (forthcoming in January) of its Unified Family Court Connection newsletter to the Families Matter Symposium, with select symposium participants writing in-depth about their involvement in and reflections about the symposium.
  • CFCC will support the ABA Families Matter Committee in preparing a presentation for all state bar presidents on the goals of Families Matter and the steps they can take to support the initiative and be catalysts for change at the local level.
  • CFCC will work with the ABA Section of Family Law to plan and prepare for its national Continuing Legal Education (CLE) conference in Amelia Island in April, 2011, which will approach each of its topics from the Families Matter perspective, training attorneys on how each aspect of family law practice can be handled in a manner that supports the resilience and well-being of families.
  • CFCC will chair a working group with members from the ABA, AFCC, and NCJFCJ to generate and compile “best practices” in family law.
  • CFCC is working with the ABA to explore funding streams for the creation of a national clearinghouse for family justice reform information.
  • CFCC and the ABA will spearhead a national public awareness and education campaign centered on the need for and types of family justice system reform.

We at CFCC are always looking for new ways to support meaningful family justice system reform at the local, state, and national levels, and we encourage all of our readers to join us in this process. What changes would you like to see in the family justice system?

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