• unified family courts;
  • end-of-life disputes;
  • Schiavo;
  • alternative dispute resolution;
  • family court reform;
  • therapeutic jurisprudence

The article discusses a proposed universal adoption of comprehensive family law subject matter jurisdiction, inclusive of end-of-life (EOL) cases, as articulated in the unified family court (UFC) concept. It posits, using the Schiavo matter to illustrate the difficulties inherent in EOL disputes, that contested EOL cases are unlike other civil court cases in that they involve intimate facts and emotionally laden family dynamics. As such, these cases pose a distinctive challenge for the courts. The article suggests that contested EOL cases should be heard in a UFC because UFCs include alternative dispute resolution (ADR) protocols to deescalate family strife with the goal of facilitating out-of-court settlements and that litigation is an imperfect solution for an EOL dispute. It is also noted that judges presiding in UFCs are more experienced in handling fractious family matters and thus they are more likely to avert protracted litigation if the matter is not settled via ADR.