In 1991, the Legislature’s Commission of Family Courts issued its report pursuant to a legislative directive to: develop specific guidelines for the implementation of a family law division within each judicial circuit; provide recommendations for statutory, rule and organizational changes; and recommend necessary support services. Between 1991 and 2001, three Supreme Court opinions were issued emphasizing the need for a family court system which would provide better protection for children in court and an improved method for resolution of family matters. In May 2001 the Supreme Court issued a fourth and unanimous opinion citing twelve guiding principles of a family court as a foundation for defining and implementing a model family court: Children should live in safe and permanent homes.


  • Children should live in safe and permanent homes.
  •  The needs and best interests of children should be the primary consideration of any family court.
  • All persons should be treated with objectivity, sensitivity, dignity, and respect. 
  • Cases with inter-related family issues should be consolidated or coordinated. 
  •  The court is responsible for managing its cases. 
  •  A means of differentiating cases should be available. 
  •  Parties should be empowered to select ways in which to address their individual cases. 
  •  The court is responsible for managing its cases with due consideration of the needs of the family. 
  • There should be a means of differentiating among cases in order to conserve judicial resources. 
  • Trial courts should coordinate and maximize court resources, and establish linkages with community resources. 
  • The court’s role in family restructuring is to identify services, craft solutions that are appropriate for long-term stability, and minimize the need for subsequent court action. 
  • Court services should be available to litigants at a reasonable cost, and accessible without economic discrimination. 
  • Courts should have well trained and highly motivated judicial and non-judicial personnel.
UFC is better for families because it: 
  • Eliminates duplicate hearings. 
  •  Decreases the potential for conflicting orders.
  •  Creates opportunity for alternative dispute resolution.
  •  Provides prompt linkages to services.
  •  Promotes more informed judicial decision-making.
The Essential Components Include:  
  • Court case management to monitor case progress and evaluate each case at the outset to determine the appropriate resources and the appropriate way to handle the case.
  •  Coordination of multiple cases involving one family.
  •  Collaboration between the judiciary, stakeholders, and the community to provide access to an array of services for families.
  •  Less adversarial approach to handling family cases that focuses on the best interests of the child, while balancing process concerns.

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