Florida’s Unified Family Court System
The goal to establish a unified family court system in Florida was largely driven by reports that families were spending years in courtrooms and thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees in efforts to have their legal issues resolved. Once adopted, Florida’s unified model became instrumental in allowing families to have all of their legal problems handled in one place as quickly and as painlessly as possible. Divorces, property division, and custody issues can be extremely emotional and stressful, so if you or a loved one are thinking about a divorce or other family law issue, it is vital that you contact an experienced attorney who can help streamline the process.Model Court System
After years of research, the Family Court Steering Committee proposed a model court system that would enable families to save themselves a significant amount of time and money in their legal disputes. The committee argued for a fully integrated approach that would allow one court to hear all cases involving children and families. Of paramount concern, however, was the adoption of methods that would resolve disputes in a manner that caused the least amount of emotional harm to children.
Florida’s Supreme Court agreed and adopted the following principles to act as a foundation upon which family courts could build. The guidelines stated that the goal of family courts in the state is to ensure that:
- Children live in safe and permanent homes;
- The best interests of children are served;
- Children and adults are treated with objectivity and sensitivity;
- Cases involving inter-related family law issues are consolidated to minimize inconvenience, but also to avoid conflicting decisions; and
- Therapeutic justice is served.
Florida family courts are also required to create a process by which judges handling cases involving the same family, are able to discuss and coordinate litigation. This helps avoid inconsistent court orders and multiple court appearances by families on the same issues, which is both expensive and potentially emotionally traumatic for children.
Additional elements deemed necessary to establishing a model family court include:
- Proper case management;
- Access to self-help programs;
- Identification and management of domestic violence cases;
- Alternatives to traditional litigation;
- Assigning guardians ad litem for at-risk children;
- Education programs for parents;
- Access to counseling and rehabilitative services for problems such as drug and alcohol addiction, child abuse, and anger management;
- The ability to ensure compliance with court orders;
- A safe environment; and
- The use of up-to-date technology.
Ultimately, Florida’s unified family courts help bring families with legal problems before one specialized court to solve a variety of problems. This enables judges to coordinate with agencies and access services that will help ensure that the best interests of the parties are upheld while causing the least amount of stress.
If you are considering a divorce or are involved in another legal family matter in Florida, an attorney can help you navigate the family court system quickly and with the least amount of contention possible. Please contact West Palm Beach family law attorney William Wallshein for a consultation.