District court judges designated as family court judges hear cases involving juvenile delinquency; abuse, neglect and dependency allegations; termination of parental rights; domestic violence; child custody and visitation rights; divorce and related financial issues like child support, alimony, and equitable distribution of property. Family court judges are typically assigned to family court for an adequate period of time in order to master the subject matter and receive specialized training to increase their expertise in dealing with family matters.
A major goal of Family Court is to consolidate all of a family's legal issues before a single district court judge or team of judges that has been assigned to the family. Family court case coordinators work with the judges and the parties or attorneys to assign and manage multiple court issues/cases so that all of the family's legal issues are scheduled and heard before the same assigned judge or team of judges for the life of the legal matters. Having all of the pertinent information about a family allows family court judges to become familiar with each family's issues and better address those issues, as well as saving families time by avoiding the need to recount their history for multiple judges at each hearing.
Together, the dedicated family court judges and staff implement policies that promote prompt and just resolution of family law issues. These policies incorporate intensive case management principles to monitor established time standards and mandatory participation in alternate dispute resolution methods to provide non-adversarial approaches to resolving family matters outside the court. Effective and intensive case management implemented by family courts includes: court supervision of case progress, a case assignment system, control of continuances, early dispositions and firm trial dates. Time standards vary by type of action but ideally family court issues will be resolved within a year of filing although this may not always be possible due to the geographic location of parties or the complexity of the case.