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Keywords:

  • Family law;
  • alternative dispute resolution;
  • child welfare

Despite considerable reform over the past several decades, family law is still failing families. Instead of strengthening relationships long before problems arise, too often family law waits for a crisis and then intervenes, typically in a heavy-handed, adversarial fashion. This essay, an extended précis of a forthcoming book, argues that family law should be fundamentally oriented toward fostering strong, stable, positive relationships to prevent crises. Then, if a conflict does arise, family law should intervene in a manner that preserves and repairs relationships.

Key Points for the Family Court Community:

  • Despite considerable evidence demonstrating the essential role families play in ensuring the well-being of the next generation, family law does far too little to strengthen families.
  • Once conflicts do arise, family law pits one family member against the other, undermining the relationships that will almost certainly continue long after the legal action ends.
  • Family law should be fundamentally oriented toward fostering strong, stable, positive relationships, which will require changes to both the structural relationship between families and the state and the dispute-resolution system.