University of Denver

Honoring Families Initiative Advisory Committee Meets to Chart Path for Work

Founding Executive Director

The Advisory Committee of the Honoring Families Initiative here at IAALS met last month. The Committee, chaired by Bill Howe, a domestic relations practitioner from Oregon, is a group of multi-disciplinary, extremely experienced, and skilled people—who care a great deal about families in the courts. They have been with IAALS since the onset of the HFI work, and they continue to be our secret weapon.

At this meeting, we considered ways in which we would suggest amendment of the Civil Justice Reform Action Items to reflect differences between civil cases and domestic relations cases. We reviewed ways in which unbundled legal services are being promoted across the country. We thought about changes in the law and culture that would be necessary in order for an out-of-court divorce model to thrive. And we looked at some Online Dispute Resolution models for domestic relations cases.

These people are judges, academics, mental health practitioners, legal aid lawyers, private lawyers, domestic violence experts, self-represented litigant advocates, and court administrators. They bridge the spectrum of service providers—and they all believe that the divorce process needs to be restructured in order to meet the needs of families.

We have a variety of projects underway at IAALS that are seeking to serve that goal. Our work with the Conference of Chief Justices Committee on Families in the Courts, our work on the Court Compass project, and our efforts to identify and promote triage and best practices are all part of the same puzzle.

With the very real exception of families in which there is violence, the adversary system ill serves most families—and some families it damages greatly. It is our mission to chip away at changes—big and small—until we arrive at a system far better suited to allowing parents and children to transition through a divorce or separation without it ripping the fabric of their souls in the process.

The HFI Advisory Committee support us, guides us, and informs us along that path. We thank them!