|"A Vision without Division."|
Florida Unified Family Court is a fully integrated, comprehensive approach to handling all cases involving children and families, while at the same time resolving family disputes in a fair, timely, efficient, and cost effective manner.
Family Court can mean different things to different people. In Florida, the Supreme Court has recognized Unified Family Court as the best way to handle cases that involve children and families. The idea behind Unified Family Court (or UFC for short) is that a family should be able to have all of their disputes resolved in the most effective and efficient way possible. Since 1991, a series of Florida Supreme Court opinions have been instrumental in establishing UFC throughout the state. Click to view the full versions of the opinions.
Family Court Jurisdiction -See the list below for the types of cases that comprise UFC.
- dissolution of marriage
- division; distribution of property arising out of dissolution of marriage
- custodial care / access to children
- support unconnected with dissolution of marriage
- child support
- URESA / UIFSA
- declaratory judgment actions related to premarital, marital, or post marital agreements
- name change
- juvenile delinquency
- emancipation of a minor
- CINS / FINS
- juvenile dependency
- termination of parental rights
- civil domestic & repeat violence
- modifications and enforcement of orders
"A Vision without Division."
The video tells the story of a stubborn judge who is shown the benefits of a unified family court system and slowly begins to embrace its concepts.
The success of any family court is dependent upon effective communication among all stakeholders both in the judicial branch and in the community. Because the model court concept must be tailored to the needs of each community and because each family court should fully explore and take advantage of resources within the community, the creation of a Family Law Advisory Group within each circuit will enhance the family court in each circuit.
Sample family law reform (FLR) consensus-building process1. Identify parties: Identify all of the parties who should be involved, and recruit them into the process. If some parties are left out or refuse to participate, this is likely to cause implementation problems at the end.
2. Define any conflict: Defining, and often re-defining or "reframing" the conflict is usually the next step. Try to get the disputants to reframe the issues in terms of interests, which are usually negotiable, rather than positions, values, or needs, which usually are not.
3. Brainstorm alternatives: Brainstorm alternative approaches to the problem.
Sometimes this is done as a group; other times it can be done in small work groups, with different groups of people tackling different issues or different aspects of the overall problem. An effort should be made to develop new, mutually advantageous approaches.
4. Weigh alternatives and obtain agreement: After the parties generate a list of alternatives, these alternatives are carefully examined to determine the costs and benefits of each (from each party's point of view), and the barriers to implementation. Eventually, the choice is narrowed down to one approach which is fine-tuned, often through a single negotiating text, until all the parties at the table agree. Thus consensus building differs from majority rule decision making in that everyone involved must agree with the final decision -there is no vote. The negotiators then take the agreement back to their constituencies and try to get it approved.
5. Explain agreement: This is one of the most difficult steps, as the constituencies have not been involved in the ongoing process, and often have not developed the level of understanding or trust necessary to understand why this is the best possible agreement they can get. Negotiators need to be able to explain exactly why the settlement was drafted as it was, and why it is to the constituencies' benefit to agree to it. If any one of the groups represented in the consensus-building process disagrees at this stage, they will likely refuse to sign the agreement, and the agreement may well fall apart.
6. Implement: If all the parties sign the agreement, the last stage is implementation. This stage is difficult too, as unforeseen problems inevitably develop. But successful consensus-building processes are usually able to surmount such problems because the process improves the opponents' relationship so much that they are able to work together effectively in the future to overcome implementation problems.