One Family, One Judge, One Court
Family Court is involved in the most intimate and complex aspects of human nature and social relations. For that reason, Family Court uses a case management process that distinguishes it from other trial courts. With the One Family, One Judge, One Court approach, cases are presented in a single court, allowing the same judge to hear all matters involving a particular family. This reduces the stress that can arise when individuals are shuttled between courts to resolve a variety of issues.
Focusing on the Needs of Families
Because Family Court gives cases involving families and children the highest priority, these cases do not compete with criminal and other civil cases for judicial time. As a division of Circuit Court, which is the highest trial court in Kentucky, Family Court employs full-time judges with the same qualifications as those who serve the other divisions of Circuit Court.
In addition to the family matters heard in Circuit Court, Family Court judges also handle family law matters that were traditionally decided in District Court. Family Court jurisdiction is defined by KRS 23A.100 and 23A.110 and includes the following:
- Dissolution of marriage
- Spousal support and equitable
- Child custody, support and visitation
- Paternity, adoption
- Domestic violence
- Dependency, neglect and abuse
- Termination of parental rights
- Status Offenses (runaways, truancy, beyond control)
History of Family Court
Kentucky launched an innovative and ambitious project when Jefferson County began a Family Court pilot program in 1991. It was the first such court in the state to focus solely on the needs of families and children. Family Court introduced a unique solution that would allow one judge to provide continuity by hearing all of a family's legal problems and issues.
The Family Court model expanded beyond Louisville to suburban and rural areas across the commonwealth. The project's success prompted efforts to make Family Court a permanent part of the Kentucky Constitution. Kentucky voters gave Family Court a resounding victory in November 2002 when the amendment passed in all 120 counties with more than 75 percent of the vote.
Today Family Court serves 3.2 million citizens in 71 Kentucky counties. Kentucky Family Court is so progressive and successful that it is considered a national model.