University of Denver

IAALS Launches Family Justice Initiative with NCSC and NCJFCJ

Director of Special Projects

In August 2016, the Conference of Chief Justices’ Civil Justice Improvements Committee released—and the Conference adopted—Call to Action: Achieving Civil Justice for All, outlining a comprehensive set of recommendations for civil justice reform. The Committee charge was limited to civil cases, and the National Center for State Courts recently launched a corollary project to explore domestic relations cases. The Family Justice Initiative is a partnership between IAALS, the Conference of Chief Justices, the Conference of State Court Administrators, and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges—with support from the State Justice Institute.

Modeled on the process used in the Civil Justice Initiative, the first phase of the Family Justice Initiative involves assessing the landscape of and best practices in domestic relations cases. Prior to the Civil Justice Improvements Committee’s efforts, the NCSC released The Landscape of Litigation in State Courts. This study examined civil cases disposed of during a one-year interval in 10 urban counties and shed insight into the challenges and opportunities facing state courts. IAALS and Family Justice Initiative project partners have begun collecting similar data on cases involving divorce/dissolution, property distribution and spousal support, and the allocation of parental rights and responsibilities. 

Following the data collection and reporting phase, the second and third phases of the project will extend the Call to Action recommendations to domestic relations cases and test them through pilot projects in select courts. The Civil Justice Initiative is currently in this final phase of implementation and evaluation