Professor Jane Murphy and colleagues discuss new approaches to family dispute resolution

From left, UB Professor Jane Murphy and University of Maryland law professors Jana Singer and Leigh Goodmark at an Oct. 5 event to mark the publication of Murphy and Singer's new book.

From left, UB Professor Jane Murphy and University of Maryland law professors Jana Singer and Leigh Goodmark at an Oct. 5 event to mark the publication of Murphy and Singer’s new book.

The October issue of The Daily Record’s Maryland Family Law supplement featured a cover story about the work of Laurence M. Katz Professor of Law Jane Murphy, co-director of the Mediation Clinic for Families, and Visiting Professor Dana Shoenbergof the Bronfein Family Law Clinic.

The article, “Emphasis on alternatives to litigation becomes part of training for law students,” discussed the increasing use of mediation and other forms of family dispute resolution that take place outside the courtroom.

Murphy is the author, with University of Maryland law professor Jana Singer, of Divorced from Reality: Rethinking Family Dispute Resolution, which was published by NYU Press this year.

“There seems to be a growing consensus that making the courts the first stop for the resolution of family conflicts isn’t in the best interests of families,” Murphy said in the article.

Murphy and Singer held a book event on Oct. 5 at the Angelos Law Center. University of Maryland law professor Leigh Goodmark offered commentary.

Speaking of a “new paradigm,” the authors spoke of innovative processes that “defuse rather than exacerbate” family conflict and that focus on enhancing families’ “ability to function in the future.”

They also discussed what is effectively a two-tiered family dispute resolution system, one for families with the money to afford specialists such as mediators and mental-health professionals and another for families that must submit to the state’s intrusion into their affairs.

“Families with money can bypass the courts almost entirely,” Murphy said.

Making a play on words, Singer said that society should “think about divorcing family-dispute resolution from the court system” and added that separation or divorce should be considered a “life-cycle challenge, not a quasi-criminal event.”

Murphy and Singer described how a private family controversy can escalate to a public dispute once the state becomes a party to a separation or divorce. For example, they said, a father’s failure to pay child support can lead to criminal charges being filed against him.

Their book is available for sale on Amazon.com.

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