BLUEPRINT FOR A MORE EFFECTIVE FAMILY COURT INTAKE PROCESS AND BEYOND: OPENING THE UMBRELLA TO PROCESS FAMILY COURT CASES
Designing an effective family court intake process is not new for Florida. The Florida Supreme Court Steering Committee on Children and Families recommended a design for a uniform court intake system in 2001. However, elements for intake and case management were not integrated as a whole; rather, bits and pieces were tried by individual circuits and counties, and some systems were mandated rather arbitrarily. For example, each circuit has some form of self-help office or information center and each circuit includes different information on their websites. Taking into account that a need for a more uniform approach remains today, the Florida Chapter of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (FLAFCC) sponsored a Task Force on Family Court Intake in 2017. Co-Chairs Robert J. Merlin, Judge Sandy Karlan, Linda Fieldstone, M.Ed., and Peggie Ward, Ph.D., shepherded the work of the task force through its fruition.
The task force employed several mechanisms to inform its recommendations with regard to helping parties navigate the family court system more effectively, including gathering existing options from Florida circuits and other national and international jurisdictions; compiling research; creating a “wish list”; initiating a statewide collaboration; and reviewing the possibilities generated. Four committees, comprised predominately of Florida judges, general magistrates, and professional court staff, were established. To create a blueprint for the future, these teams focused on four identified areas of exploration, creating the “ITAC” model, which includes three major components of a court case supported throughout by technology: information, triage, and case management.
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