Reflections on ‘Innovations in Family Dispute Resolution’

Deborah Thompson Eisenberg
University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law

March 23, 2016

75 Maryland Law Review Endnotes 1 (2016)
U of Maryland Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2016-16


Over the past several decades, our conception of “family” has dramatically changed, and so have judicial approaches to resolving disputes about the creation and dissolution of families. The traditional adversarial legal system — in which separating couples bitterly litigate in Kramer-vs.-Kramer fashion and judges impose decisions — has given way to experimentation with other models. Processes such as mediation, collaborative law, restorative justice, and other community-based approaches offer individuals greater voice and control over decisions that will profoundly affect their lives, but also present new questions for courts, legal professionals, and policymakers. This piece summarizes thoughts that emerged from a symposium that brought together more than one hundred legal scholars, dispute resolution practitioners, family law attorneys, community programs, court dispute resolution program administrators, and law students to explore the promise and challenges of these innovations in family dispute resolution. The three themes that emerged from the discussion included: 1) the need for, and promise of, new models for addressing family law issues; 2) the need for new interdisciplinary partnerships to support those models; and 3) the need to expand the scope of training for lawyers navigating the broad range of family dispute resolution options.

Reflections on ‘Innovations in Family Dispute Resolution’

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