September 01, 2017 Introduction

Introduction - Future Shock, or Readying for the Future of Family Law

By: Samuel V. Schoonmaker IV


The Family Law Quarterly Board developed the theme for this  issue during a spirited meeting at which members alternatively lauded and lamented the accelerating pace of change in the legal profession. “Nontraditional” legal services providers threaten fundamental professional norms, such as lawyers serving individual clients and upholding established duties to the courts and society. Throngs of self- represented parties increasingly seek to navigate the complexity of family courts by themselves, resulting in additional stress on the judiciary and frustration for practicing lawyers. One of our editors summarized the current mood in the profession as “future shock,” which became the working title for this issue.

Rapid political developments in the United States complicated efforts to assemble articles. Prospective authors canceled an article on immigration to the United States that they had planned during the Obama Administration. Several other potential authors were cowed, uncertain of the direction in which the law next might lurch. Fortunately, new submissions filled the gaps and fit the theme.

Dr. Eric Frazer and Dr. Linda Smith originated the first article when they loaned me a book by Oxford Professor Richard Susskind, who serves as IT Advisor for the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales. Susskind’s Tomorrow’s Lawyers: An Introduction to Your Future forecasts a technological revolution in the legal profession, massive disruption, and widespread lawyer unemployment. I disagreed with enough of Susskind’s brilliant and compelling analysis that I decided to write an article. Withstanding Disruptive Innovation: How Attorneys Will Adapt and Survive Impending Challenges from Automation and Nontraditional Legal Services Providers includes a table of contents to help readers get a quick overview of this multifaceted terrain.

Experienced child custody evaluators Drs. Frazer and Smith made a second contribution to this issue in Child Custody Innovations for Family Lawyers: The Future is Now. Their article analyzes how emerging legal tech start-up companies will disrupt traditional use of psychologists in family law cases and suggests new ways for counselors of law to help clients address parenting issues.

The third article addresses ten years of experience with what once was an unimaginable subject. An increasing number of states allow “rehabilitated” biological parents who had their parental rights either voluntarily or involuntarily terminated to resume parenting responsibilities for their children. Meredith Schalick assesses the emerging data and questions in The Sky is Not Falling: Lessons and Recommendations from Ten Years of Reinstating Parental Rights.

In the fourth article, Thomas Spade and Linda Bradley-McKee  explain the intricacies of properly granting tax benefits in Structuring  Tax Dependency Post-Divorce for Noncustodial Parents. It is important information for practitioners.

The final article describes continuing efforts to improve child support enforcement in an increasingly interconnected world. Robert Keith served as U.S. delegate and Drafting Committee member to this recent international effort. He contributes Ten Things Practitioners Should Know About the Hague Convention of 23 November 2007 on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance.

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