Moving Family Dispute Resolution from the Court System to the Community

Jane C. Murphy
University of Baltimore – School of Law

Jana B. Singer
University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law

March 22, 2016

Maryland Law Review Endnotes Vol. 75:9 (2016)


Over the past three decades, there has been a significant shift in the way the legal system approaches and resolves family disputes. Mediation, collaboration, and other non-adversarial processes have replaced a traditional, law-oriented adversarial regime. Until recently, however, reformers have focused largely on the court system as the setting for innovations in family dispute resolution. But our research suggests that courts may not be the best places for families to resolve disputes, particularly disputes involving children. Moreover, attempting to turn family courts into multi-door dispute resolution centers may detract from their essential role as adjudicators of last resort and forums for the creation and enforcement of important social norms. In this Essay, and in our recent book, Divorced From Reality: Rethinking Family Dispute Resolution, we suggest that family law reformers should rethink their continuing reliance on courts and consider moving some of the problem-solving processes and services that characterize today’s family justice system out of the courts and into the community.

Moving Family Dispute Resolution from the Court System to the Community

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