Summary of Initiatives

Phase I of the Unified Court System's Family Justice Program, announced in April 1997, introduced initiatives designed to make the Family Court more accessible to the public. Phase II of the Family Justice Program fundamentally changes the way the court conducts its business in order to ensure that the justice needs of children and families are met on a daily basis. The specific initiatives are summarized below.

I. Modern Case Management

Introduction to Modern Specialized Treatment of Cases Page 6

Function-Based Court Parts for the specialized treatment of cases, in which all resources are focused on the requirements particular to specific types of cases. The function-based structure allows more uninterrupted trial time and appropriate assessment of cases, minimizes scheduling conflicts of attorneys and service providers, and reduces the time a litigant must wait to be heard. Page 8

Expedited Case Processing in which cases are assigned directly to the appropriate division, with specially-trained staff and dedicated data collection and retrieval capacity. Page 11

II. Specialized Treatment of Cases

A Child Protective/Permanency Planning Division established to ensure safety, timely decision-making and permanency for children and families. Page 15

This will be accomplished by:






A Juvenile Delinquency/PINS Division in which coordinated efforts of the Family Court, Corporation Counsel, Mayor's Office of the Criminal Justice Coordinator and Board of Education improve information-sharing and ensure speedy resolution of cases involving juvenile justice and children at risk. Page 22

A Domestic Violence/Custody Division in which additional quasi-judicial staff and collaboration between Family Court and Criminal Court enhance informational resources and ensure expedited disposition of cases. Page 25

A Support/Paternity Division with a new computer program and dedicated personnel that allow greater access to financial records and enhanced establishment and enforcement of child support obligations. Page 28

III. Operational Innovations

Inter-Court Information Transmission between Family Court and Criminal Court about related proceedings and litigants that ensures swift disposition and protection of litigants while cases are pending. Page 31

Interagency Partnerships in which family justice agencies coordinate efforts to provide information efficiently and expeditiously. Page 32

Red Hook Community Justice Center, a multi-jurisdictional community court, in which family and housing matters, as well as criminal arraignments will be heard. Page 33

IV. Statewide Family Court Initiatives

The Suffolk County Family Court will channel its diverse cases into three units, the Family Rehabilitation Unit, the Family Preservation and Protection Unit and the Family Support Unit. Page 35

The Onondaga County Family Court will use dedicated parts for specific types of cases and assignment of attorneys for pre-trial settlement conferences. Page 36


The Erie County Family Court has established pilot projects to improve case management and expedite case dispositions in conjunction with the Permanent Judicial Commission on Justice for Children, Center for Court Innovation and the Better Business Bureau. Page 36

V. Matrimonial Initiatives

The expansion of Alternative Dispute Resolution programs, including a Mandatory Early Neutral Evaluation Program in Nassau County and a Referred Divorce Mediation Program in Orange County, to provide litigants with alternatives to traditional adjudication and speedier resolution of matrimonial matters. Page 38

Proposed Legislation to expedite issuance of divorce decrees and ensure enforcement and collection of support orders. Page 40