History of UCC
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.
- 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.
UCC 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.