CFCC's Full Court Press, Issue IV
September 2012
University of Baltimore School of Law
Center for Families, Children and the Courts


Greetings from the University of Baltimore School of Law Center for Families, Children and the Courts. Welcome to the fourth issue of CFCC's "Full Court Press" E-newsletter, within which you can find an interview with Connie Kratovil-Lavelle, the Executive Director of the Maryland Administrative Office of the Courts Department of Family Administration. This issue also includes an in-depth look at CFCC's fourth Urban Child Symposium focused on the juvenile justice system, an update on the latest news from CFCC's Truancy Court Program, and an exploration of the concept and practice of collaborative law. We appreciate your interest and welcome you to become involved in one or more of CFCC's projects and initiatives.  

An Interview with Connie Kratovil-Lavelle, Executive Director of the Maryland Administrative Office of the Courts Department of Family Administration

The Maryland Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) has launched several initiatives designed to evaluate and expand the use of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) models. One of the most popular of these models is collaborative law. Full Court Press (FCP) has spoken with Connie Kratovil-Lavelle (CK), Executive Director of the Maryland Administrative Office of the Courts Department of Family Administration, about the department's initiatives regarding collaborative law.


FCP: Thank you so much for taking the time to sit down with us and share some of your cutting edge family law work.

CK: We're doing things in Maryland that are not being done anywhere else. We are working to make collaborative law more accessible to families, while at the same time evaluating how effective it is - we're not afraid to take charge in new arenas.


FCP: What are the Department of Family Administration's plans regarding collaborative law? 

CK: Our approach is two-pronged. First, we are gathering data to learn more about the process and cost/benefits of the practice. Second, we are simultaneously training and recruiting attorneys and other professionals for the practice of collaborative law, especially those willing to practice pro bono or for a reduced fee.


FCP: Have you gathered any data yet that suggests to you that collaborative law is an effective process?

CK: The practice is so new that there is very little data on effectiveness. There is some anecdotal data we are compiling now that for the most part seems positive and suggests that, like more established forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), it is beneficial to families. What we want to do now is to quantify the data on a larger scale.


Continue reading the interview with Connie Kratovil-Lavelle

Fourth Annual Urban Child Symposium Draws Large Crowd; National and Local Juvenile Justice Experts Share Promising Practices and New Directions

Keynote Speaker Bernardine Dohrn (Photo by A. Green)
Around two million people under the age of eighteen are arrested each year in the United States. It is not surprising that the juvenile justice system has a major impact on the country's youth population, affecting everything from adolescent development to court processes. Given the scope and depth of juvenile justice issues, CFCC chose to focus on this area for its fourth annual Urban Child Symposium on April 12. It is a subject that has resonated in the community, with the highest number of individuals registering for the event in CFCC's history.

The symposium addressed the importance of balancing public safety with the unique needs of urban children in the juvenile justice system and explored how society should address those needs in its approach to juvenile criminal behavior. Bernardine Dohrn, Clinical Associate Professor of Law and Founder and Immediate Past Director of the Children and Family Justice Center at Northwestern University School of Law, set a positive tone in her opening remarks, speaking about the beneficial changes in the juvenile justice field in the past decade. She discussed recent Supreme Court decisions that have banned capital punishment for juveniles and life-without-parole for non-homicide juvenile offenses. She urged symposium participants to pay attention to the Supreme Court's recognition that children experience the world differently, as well as the Court's more developmentally accurate understanding of children's interactions with the law.
Collaborative Law: A New Approach to Old Problems

The Maryland Administrative Office of the Courts is at the forefront of national efforts to educate and train the legal community about a growing movement that offers an alternative way to settle the acrimonious disputes that often characterize divorce proceedings.   Collaborative law is one of several dispute resolution alternatives that is changing the ways in which attorneys practice matrimonial law.

In a collaborative divorce, both spouses hire attorneys who should be trained in the practice of collaborative law.  The parties and attorneys sign an agreement that requires them to negotiate the divorce through a series of four-way meetings. The goal is for attorneys to assist the parties to resolve conflicts using cooperative strategies, rather than adversarial techniques and litigation.  Other professionals, such as custody evaluators, appraisers, or accountants, may be brought into the collaborative process, but they are in principle neutral parties independently retained by each spouse.

Learn more about Collaborative Law, Collaborative Divorce and the Maryland Administrative Office of the Courts' initiatives with alternative dispute resolution.  

Barbara Babb, Associate Professor of Law and Director, Center for Families, Children and the Courts

CFCC Staff: Gloria Danziger, Senior Fellow; Andrea Bento, Truancy Court Program Manager and School Liaison; Anthony "Bubba" Green, Truancy Court Program Mentor Coordinator; Catherine Jackson, Truancy Court Program Co-Manager; Sharon Curley, Program Administrative Specialist; Elizabeth Mullen, Administrative Assistant

Editing Staff: Barbara Babb, Editor; Gloria Danziger, Editor/Writer; Andrea Bento, Editor/Writer; Elizabeth Mullen, Editor

University of Baltimore School of Law Center for Families, Children and the Courts
In This Issue
An Interview with Connie Kratovil-Lavelle, Esq
Fourth Annual Urban Child Symposium
Collaborative Law: A New Approach to Old Problems
Truancy Court Program Adds Major New Features
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Truancy Court Program Adds Major New Features

CFCC is pleased to announce that its Truancy Court Program (TCP) is expanding as a result of several large grants.

Major innovations include:

-Expanding the TCP to operate in eight Baltimore City public schools, including two high schools;

-Adding a social worker/case manager to the TCP team to provide additional support for eighth and ninth graders during a period when dropout rates are particularly high; and

-Holding school-wide assemblies on the importance of attending and achieving in school and workshops for administrators and faculty on how to identify and address the reasons that often underlie truant behavior;

-Key guides providing information about resources available to families of truant children;

-Developing and implementing more extensive and in-depth data analysis of the TCP;

-Creating and administering comprehensive surveys to determine the impact of TCP participation on factors such as parents' interest in students'  homework and school, students' attitudes toward school, and teacher satisfaction with the TCP, among other important issues.   
The Summer 2012 Issue of CFCC's Unified Family Court Connection is now available
Summer 2012 Unified Family Court Connection
This 11th issue focuses on a plenary session, "Promising Practices in Family Law," from the October 2012 ABA Section of Family Law Continuing Legal Education Program and includes the following articles:
  • "Promising Practices in Family Law Cases Help Ease Impact of Divorce" by Judge J. Stephen Schuster
  • "Divorce Practices Must Aim to Protect the Children" by Jenny Schulz
  • "Creative Uses of Alternative Dispute Resolution Techniques in Family Law Litigation Produce Better Outcomes" by Carlton D. Stansbury
  • "Domestic Violence Trials: Minimizing the Impact on the Children is Essential" by Rick DeMichele 

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