center for sustainable justice

Unified Family Courts

The idea behind Unified Family Courts (UFC) is to resolve all juvenile and family issues in a one-stop-shop efficiently and effectively. One full-time judge will know how to handle the family law and civil and criminal cases involving juveniles that involve certain families. This is done in a therapeutically responsible, ecological and holistic manner. The term ’ecology’ was already used in 1997 by Barbara A. Babb, director of the Center for Families, Children and the Courts of the University of Baltimore School of Law[1] and promoter of the Unified Family Court system. The family obtains easy access with little requirements to a fixed case management team. An adequate monitoring system is in place and the United Family Court can respond early, quickly and effectively where appropriate. Supporting community provisions and training facilities are available. A judge can therefore refer problems encountered by parents regarding visitation agreements to a training center for co-parenting and appropriate measures could be imposed in cases of domestic violence, such as a temporary restraining order, anger management training, victim care and therapeutic support for stakeholders. Mediation facilities have been integrated in Unified Family Courts to allow divorces to be completed in a manner that is as ecologically responsible as possible.

Many states in the United States have adopted the United Family Courts system, and the idea has also become widely accepted in many other countries. The Center for Families, Children and the Courts of the University of Baltimore School of Law, a strong advocate for Unified Family Courts, emphasizes the importance of the application of Therapeutic Jurisprudence in such courts[2]. A report on Unified Family Courts was published in 2008[3].

[1] Babb, Barbara A., An Interdisciplinary Approach to Family Law Jurisprudence: Application of an Ecological and Therapeutic Perspective, Indiana Law Journal, Vol. 72, p. 775, 1997,


[3]  Babb Barbara A., Reevaluating Where We Stand: A Comprehensive Survey of America’s Family Justice Systems. Family Court Review, Vol. 46, No. 2, pp. 230-257, April 2008, University of Baltimore School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2008-13.