Vol. 37, No. 3, Fall 2003
Symposium on Unified Family Courts

Babb, Barbara A., Symposium Editor's Note, 37 FAM. L. Q. 327 (2003).

This article introduces this Symposium issue of the Family Law Quarterly, addressing the subject of unified family courts from both a national and an international perspective, as well as offering creative approaches to resolve existing problems within family law adjudicatory systems.

Belgrad, Herbert J., An Introduction to Unified Family Courts from the American Bar Association's Perspective, 37 FAM. L. Q. 329 (2003).

This article explores the role of the American Bar Association in organizing support for and developing the underlying concepts for unified family courts.

Schepard, Andrew and Bozzomo, James W., Efficiency, Therapeutic Justice, Mediation, and Evaluation: Reflections on a Survey of Unified Family Courts, 37 FAM. L. Q. 333 (2003).

In cooperation with the American Bar Association's Coordinating Council on Unified Family Courts, faculty and students of Hofstra University's Center for Children, Families and the Courts conducted a survey of various courts in states that have made a commitment to implement a unified family court (UFC) model. This article explores the study's findings.

Moran, Judith D., Judicial Independence in Family Courts: Beyond the Election-Appointment Dichotomy, 37 FAM. L. Q. 361 (2003).

This article discusses the particular factors that influence judicial independence in the family court arena. It addresses the procedural mechanisms by which an individual becomes a judge as well as family court subject matter jurisdiction, judicial autonomy, and social and cultural factors that impact decision making. The author believes that public trust and confidence in the courts is related to perceptions of judicial independence, and that the nature of family court decisions and court processes are such that they contribute to the public's loss of faith in the judicial system.

Danziger, Gloria, Delinquency Jurisdiction in a Unified Family Court: Balancing Intervention, Prevention, and Adjudication, 37 FAM. L. Q. 381 (2003).

This article examines the demographics of the current juvenile delinquency caseloads and argues that, despite trends toward greater punitive measures - including placement of juveniles in adult courts for certain offenses, the concept of a therapeutic "family-centered court," which inspired Jane Addams and her colleagues, remains the most promising approach to delinquency, articulated most notably by the proponents of the unified family court concept. The article considers and addresses objections and concerns raised with respect to this approach, looking at ways in which several states have incorporated juvenile delinquency into a family-centered unified family court.

Chase, Deborah J., Pro Se Justice and Unified Family Courts, 37 FAM. L. Q. 403 (2003).

This article examine the impact of two trends on families and the courts: the move toward unified family courts and the increase in pro se litigants. Families often find that they have different issues handled in different courts by different judges with no communication among them. The need for systems designed to coordinate related cases involving the same family and to rationalize the processing of such cases drives the movement toward unified family court reform. The same social changes that underlie the growth of unified family courts also have generated an enormous number of litigants without lawyers. The family court system has been the first area outside of limited jurisdiction courts required to confront these concerns and provide high quality justice to pro se litigants on a massive scale.

Appendix A: California Rules of Court
Appendix B: Unified Family Court Pro Se Assistance Community and Court Collaboration

Satterfield, The Honorable Lee F., The New District of Columbia Family Court—Only the Beginning, 37 FAM. L. Q. 431 (2003).

Working in partnership to improve the court system, the Superior Court and Congress have initiated a unified family court in the District of Columbia. While the effectiveness of the new family court can only be determined in the years to come, its contentious start has resulted in a unified effort to better serve children and families in the District of Columbia. This article examines what has changed and how the new system is working.

Nicholson, The Honorable Alastair and Harrison, Margaret. Specialist but Not Unified: The Family Court of Australia, 37 FAM. L. Q. 441 (2003).

The Family Court of Australia was established by the Family Law Act 1975, started in January 1976,and is a specialist superior federal court of record that deals exclusively with private family law disputes. This article explores its guiding principals and structure.

Garon, Risa and Whitfill, Judge Cypert, A Mental-Health Professional and Judge's Journey: Providing Responsible Parenting, Giving Children a Voice, 37 FAM. L. Q. 459 (2003).

This article is an attempt by a mental health professional and a family law judge to share some of what they have learned over the past twenty years regarding the best interests of children in separation and divorce cases. The authors believe that society and the courts give lip service to "putting children first" but generally allows adults to do what they wish and only then do what is best for the children. The authors offer practical suggestions for changing that scenario.

2003 Schwab Essay Contest Winners

Smiles, Ethan Jacob, A child's Due Process Right to legal counsel in Abuse and Neglect Dependency Proceedings, 37 FAM. L. Q. 485 (2003).

Abuse and neglect dependency proceedings impact the liberty interests of children triggering protection under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In Mathews v. Eldridge, the Supreme Court create a balancing test to determine what process is due and applying this test demonstrates that children in dependency proceedings are constitutionally entitled to legal counsel as a matter of procedural due process.

Santillo, Kristen, Disestablishment of Paternity and the Future of Child Support Obligations, 37 FAM. L. Q. 503 (2003).

This article discusses the efforts made by states to address the issue of misidentification of paternity and attempts to balance the interests of misidentified fathers, children, and the state. Also included is a description of the legal barriers to the disestablishment of paternity, and the policy reasons supporting them.

McBride, Erin K., Splitting heirs: Reforming the Custodial Treatment of Identical Twins in Divorce. 37 FAM. L. Q. 515 (2003).

Courts and legislatures in custody disputes consistently fail to protect sibling relationships, especially among twins. This article argues genetic composition is a strong standard for custody determinations under a traditional "best interest of the child" inquiry: it is in the best interest of identical twins to remain together when their parents divorce.

Publication Date: January 15, 2004