University of Denver

Family Justice Initiative

The Family Justice Initiative is a project of IAALS, the National Center for State Courts, the Conference of Chief Justices, the Conference of State Court Administrators, and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, with funding from the State Justice Institute. The project is designed to evaluate and improve the way courts handle domestic relations cases.

Director, Special Projects
Senior Legal Assistant

Project Objective:

  • To evaluate and improve the way courts handle domestic relations cases.

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 (FJI).

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, which shed light on challenges and opportunities facing state civil courts. 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.

IAALS formerly housed this work under its Honoring Families Initiative until 2018.

Assess the Current Landscape and Best Practices

IAALS, NCSC, and NCJFCJ are in the process of gathering qualitative and quantitative data on family courts and family case processing in 11 jurisdictions around the country. The research findings will be provided to the FJI subcommittee in a Landscape report, to inform the conversation around extending and modifying the CCJ Civil Justice Initiative Recommendations to domestic relations cases.

A first of its kind study, this report brings together national data from family cases that confirms what we have long known at IAALS: family courts must do more to focus on problem solving rather...

Extending and Modifying the CCJ CJI Recommendations

A dedicated subcommittee will review the domestic relations Landscape report and create a corollary Call to Action report with domestic relations-specific recommendations, which will then be submitted to CCJ/COSCA.

Implementation and Evaluation

With recommendations for domestic relations case processing in hand, FJI partners will identify a number of jurisdictions in which to pilot the recommendations.

  • National Center for State Courts (NCSC)
  • Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ)
  • Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA) 
  • National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ)
  • State Justice Institute