The End of Family Court: How Abolishing the Court Brings Justice to Children and Families

An in-depth conversation with Jane Spinak, a renowned legal expert, about the potential benefits of abolishing the family court system.

In a thought-provoking interview, Jane Spinak, the Edward Ross Aranow Clinical Professor of Law Emerita at Columbia Law School, discusses her groundbreaking perspective on the family court system. With decades of experience in family regulation and a deep understanding of the challenges faced by children and families, Spinak argues for the abolition of family courts. This conversation sheds light on the flaws of the current system and offers a compelling vision for a more just and effective alternative.

1: The Failings of the Family Court System

Spinak begins by highlighting the shortcomings of the family court system. She points out that the adversarial nature of the court often exacerbates conflicts, leading to prolonged and emotionally draining legal battles. Moreover, the complexity of family law and the lack of specialized judges often result in inconsistent rulings and a lack of understanding of the unique dynamics within families.

2: A Paradigm Shift: From Adversarial to Problem-Solving

According to Spinak, the key to bringing justice to children and families lies in shifting the focus from an adversarial approach to a problem-solving one. She proposes the establishment of specialized family law centers staffed by interdisciplinary teams of professionals, including lawyers, social workers, and mental health experts. These centers would prioritize mediation and collaboration, seeking to find solutions that meet the best interests of all parties involved.

3: Empowering Families and Communities

Spinak emphasizes the importance of empowering families and communities in the decision-making process. She argues that the current system often disempowers parents, relegating them to passive participants in their own lives. By involving families in the decision-making process and providing them with the necessary support and resources, Spinak believes that families can better navigate challenges and resolve conflicts in a way that is beneficial for all.

4: Addressing Systemic Inequities

One of the fundamental flaws of the family court system, as Spinak points out, is its tendency to perpetuate systemic inequities. Marginalized communities, including low-income families and communities of color, often face disproportionate challenges within the system. Spinak suggests that the alternative model she proposes would prioritize addressing these inequities by providing equal access to legal representation and support services for all families.

5: The Role of Education and Prevention

Spinak emphasizes the importance of education and prevention in reducing the need for formal legal interventions. By investing in comprehensive family support programs, including parenting education, mental health services, and conflict resolution training, communities can proactively address issues before they escalate to court involvement. This approach not only benefits families but also reduces the burden on the legal system.


Jane Spinak’s perspective on abolishing the family court system challenges traditional notions of justice and offers a compelling vision for a more inclusive and effective approach. By shifting the focus from adversarial proceedings to problem-solving and empowering families, Spinak believes that we can create a system that truly serves the best interests of children and families. While the path to reform may be challenging, it is a conversation that demands our attention as we strive for a more just society.

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