Document Type

Article

Publication Date

Summer 1997

Abstract

Traditionally, the legal system has attempted to fashion morality in determining family legal issues rather than to devise legal remedies that accommodate how families live. This approach must change, and a new approach based on legal realism that effectuates the well-being of families and children must be developed. This article proposes an interdisciplinary approach based on an ecological and therapeutic jurisprudential paradigm to resolve family legal proceedings. An ecological approach, emanating from the ecology of human development social science paradigm, is one in which family law decision-makers consider factors beyond their conceptions of the family. This approach urges decision-makers to account for the "family ecology," which includes the institutions within which family members participate, such as neighborhoods and religious organizations. Utilizing an ecological approach to family law jurisprudence implies that decision-makers appreciate the importance of socially rich environments for family members and facilitate linkages between and among as many systems in litigants' lives as possible. The therapeutic jurisprudential paradigm emerges from the field of mental health law and looks at the role of law as a therapeutic agent. The author urges that family law decision-makers consider outcomes that have therapeutic or positive consequences for families and children. To employ this interdisciplinary ecological and therapeutic framework, the court system must accommodate a range of dispute resolution techniques, including negotiation, mediation, and adjudication, allowing the judge to strike a balance between the parties' own resolution and a full court trial of family law issues. An interdisciplinary paradigm for family law jurisprudence that applies the ecology of human development perspective and notions of therapeutic jurisprudence can ensure that family law decision-makers and the courts are a source of strength and support for the continued and enhanced functioning of America's families.

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