Family Court Services

We’re on the KidSide!

Family Court Services provides court-ordered intervention to high conflict cases and addresses issues such as co-parenting, time-sharing, supervised parenting time, parenting coordination, social investigation, and community referrals – a one-stop shop to save children from parental conflict, right in the Lawson E. Thomas Courthouse Center building! There is no fee for these court-ordered services. For many of these families, this makes Family Court Services the only support network they can afford. Family Court Services Mission: The coordination of supportive services to families in response to judicial orders to promote the resolution of family conflicts and thereby reduce the number of judicial hearings. Through a process that focuses upon solutions rather than conflicts, parents most often reach understandings and resolve issues together. Support is given to the family system with particular sensitivity to children. Program Participation: Family Court Services participants are referred to the Unit through the Family Division, Domestic Violence Division, Unified Family Court, and General Magistrates. An order of referral must be signed and a copy forwarded to Family Court Services in order to facilitate the activation of an office file. The parties are required to contact the Unit within 5 working days for the provision of initial data or the court will be noticed of non-compliance. The Unit’s unique position of court accountability fosters compliance from the court’s most difficult and resistant clients. These high conflict parents are pulled out of the adversarial courtroom atmosphere into a more comfortable and congenial setting and given the opportunity and encouragement to cooperate rather than battle. Entered into a process which focuses on solutions rather than conflicts, the parties most often reach understandings and resolve their issues together. The children are the direct beneficiaries of their parents’ more cooperative relationship together. Studies show that best predictor of children’s adjustment to divorce, separation, or other family proceedings is the degree of conflict between their parents. The longer the conflict and stronger the conflict, the more negative the outcome for the children involved. This includes children’s proclivity for:
  • poor academic performance
  • suspension or expulsion from school
  • poor peer relationships
  • teen substance abuse
  • teen pregnancy
  • teen suicide
About 10 – 15% of Family Division cases are high conflict, but they take up to 80% of judiciary time and resources. Family Court Services sees those high conflict cases that consume the most time, money and energy of the Family Court system. Fewer court hearings translate to less case delays for other cases that also require attention from the court!
There were so many cases referred to Family Court Services in July 2007 that it was necessary to initiate a moratorium, limiting judges’ referrals to the Unit to 10 per month! 2335 services were facilitated in 2007, an increase in staff workload of 64% in just 3 years – even with a moratorium limiting the number of cases referred by judiciary to 10 per judge during the last 2 quarters of 2007 AND A STAFF REDUCTION! In 2008, in addition to the judges’ moratorium, general magistrates were limited to only 5 referrals to Family Court Services per month.
Since the initiation of the moratorium, the statistical reports of the unit no longer reflect the needs of children and families, the community or the court!
Family Court Services is staffed by dedicated professionals who provide crucial and unique services to children and families. Therapeutic justice is not new to Miami-Dade County, Florida, the largest judicial circuit in Florida. As early as 1990, judicial consultants fostered supportive services to court-referred families of the 11th Judicial Circuit. When unresolved non-legal issues arose during the judicial process, the litigation process of these high-conflict families was suspended. The parents’ sensitive family issues were then addressed outside of the courtroom by the consultants and the legal process was able to continue without the entanglements of the parties’ non-legal concerns. Through this model, the Family Court Services Unit was developed and has continued to assist judges and general magistrates with some of the court’s most difficult cases, reducing case delays and court loads while facilitating the unique needs of parents and their children. Today these parents are referred to a comfortable and congenial setting in Family Court Services and given the opportunity and encouragement to cooperate rather than battle. Entered into a process which focuses on solutions rather than conflicts, parents most often reach understandings and resolve their issues together.