In the latest edition of Unified Family Court Connection, IAALS Honoring Families Initiative Advisory Committee members William J. Howe, III and Justice Paul J. DeMuniz highlight Oregon’s efforts to better serve children and families dealing with divorce and conflict. Twenty years ago, Oregon adopted a unified family court among a host of other reforms designed to substitute “a more therapeutic, problem-solving approach for the traditional adversarial model of divorce proceedings.” Today, in light of decreasing budgets and resulting strain on the system, the family court is pursuing additional initiatives to ensure access to justice. Included in its efforts is an Informal Domestic Relations Trial (IDRT) that IAALS helped the Oregon State Family Law Advisory Committee develop. The IDRT significantly relaxes the rules of evidence and offers parties a potentially shorter trial. The project’s goal is to make the process more accessible to litigants without attorneys, but also to make it more cost-effective for parties to hire attorneys to represent them during the shortened and simplified process.
The authors also discuss the model for Resource Centers for Separating and Divorcing Families, which was developed by the Honoring Families Initiative. The first Resource Center is opening next week, at the University of Denver. The model allows families to gain access to various services outside of court to help them develop parenting plans, financial stability, and strategies for navigating their separation or divorce that keep them out of the courtroom and foster healthier reorganization. The authors suggest that if successful in Colorado, the model will be replicated in Oregon.