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Family court is a court of Equity convened to decide matters and make orders in relation to family law, such as custody of children. In common-law jurisdictions "family courts" are statutory creations primarily dealing with equitable matters devolved from a court of inherent jurisdiction, such as a superior court. Family courts were first established in the United States in 1910, when they were called domestic relations courts although the idea itself is much older.
Family courts hear all cases that relate to familial and domestic relationships. Although each state has a different system utilized to address family law cases, each state strives to provide families with the best possible outcome in family law cases. Family courts can also issue decisions regarding divorce cases.
In the United States
In the United States family court falls under the heading of Trial Courts of Limited Jurisdiction. These types of courts deal only with a specific type of case and they are usually presided over by a single judge without a jury.
In the United States a family often will use mediation (family mediation) instead of a family court. This allows families to find solutions that suit their specific needs, rather than being forced to adhere to the ruling of a judge. The idea of using family court is to put the child first and help parents resolve disputes.
In England and Wales
Cases involving children are primarily dealt with under the Children Act 1989, amongst other statutes. As of 22 April 2014 there are two family courts:
The Family Court was created by Part 2 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013, merging into one the family law functions of the county courts and magistrates' courts.
Two types of scenario are covered by the Children Act 1989: private law cases, where the applicant and respondent are usually the child's parents; and public law cases, where the applicant is the local authority and the parents are usually respondents. There is much debate at present over whether the manner in which the law is administered generally leads to outcomes that are beneficial to the families concerned. In this context, see fathers' rights.
Cases involving domestic violence are primarily dealt with under Part IV of the Family Law Act 1996.
In England, a family court may be called upon to require the payment of child maintenance, when the child is either under the age of 16, or under the age of 20 receiving a full-time education (but not higher than A-Level or equivalent).
Abusive partners are sometimes allowed to cross examine their victims in extremely stressful ways. Peter Kyle described it as “abuse and brutalisation” by the legal system of women. “Mothers need the protection of the law and they need to know in advance that the system is there to look out and protect their interests,” Kyle said. “It only takes one woman to be placed in a situation where she can be legally be asked by the man who has violently abused her; ‘When did you last have sex?’. That only has to happen once to realise that the system is corrupted and domestic abuse is going on in our system in the courtroom.”This is to change.
In Hong Kong
- "Types Of Cases Tried And Role Of Court". family.laws.com. 2013. Retrieved 31 July 2013.
- "Federal Court Basics". uscourts.gov. 2013. Retrieved 31 July 2013.
- Ginsberg, Laura (2011). "Mediation". familycourt.us. Retrieved 31 July 2013.
- "Arranging child maintenance through the Child Support Agency or Child Maintenance Service". gov.uk. 2013. Retrieved 21 November 2013.
- Revealed: how family courts allow abusers to torment their victims The Guardian
- Courts to ban cross-examination of victims by abusers