Document Type

Article

Publication Date

6-2014

Abstract

The Families Matter initiative was designed as a major, multi-year undertaking to develop legal practice methods and approaches to reduce the destructive consequences of the family legal process. The initiative was intended to respond to the need for deep and meaningful reform of the family law process.

Convened in June 2010 by the University of Baltimore School of Law Sayra and Neil Meyerhoff Center for Families, Children and the Courts (CFCC), the Families Matter Symposium brought together an interdisciplinary group of family law experts for two days at the University of Baltimore to identify problems regarding the practice of family law and to make recommendations about promising solutions. The best outcomes for family law cases require a combination of lawyers and mental health professionals, social scientists, mediators, judges, academics, policymakers and financial experts, among others. In addition, Symposium participants acknowledged that the resolution of family law cases must not be “win or lose” and that a major shift in tone is needed.

The main question was, “How do we radically transform a family court system from one that disrupts and tears apart families to one that helps heal them?” The Families Matter initiative intended to help develop and support a family justice system with an interdisciplinary, holistic and therapeutic focus; to make a broad range of family and individual services available to separating families; to foster greater use of alternative dispute resolution at the earliest stages of a case; and to encourage training law students, lawyers, judges, and court personnel toward a less adversarial, therapeutic, holistic focus when dealing with family law matters. This report provides a summary and overview of the Symposium discussions and the suggestions for reform that emerged from those discussions.

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