Restorative Justice S.A.

Families in Circle Process: Restorative Justice in Family Law




This article explores the use of "circle process" - a form of restorative justice - in family law and places this effort within a larger movement within the law toward law as a healing profession, or the "comprehensive law movement." It explores the features and underpinnings of circle process and its relationship to original forms of dispute resolution such as those used in African-style mediation and indigenous people's dispute resolution in North America. Values expressed by these forms of dispute resolution are argued to be particularly relevant in family law. Finally, it focuses on an innovative and exciting court-sponsored program begun in Chicago in 2008, using circle process with families in conflict, in the Cook County Parentage and Child Support Court. This program's results suggest potential benefits and cautions of using circle process in family law.

Key Points for the Family Court Community:

  • Restorative justice, in particular, circle process, can be used to resolve family law cases.
  • Circle process widens the group of participants in alternative dispute resolution of family law matters.
  • Circle process brings more voices to the table, namely, extended family, friends, and supporters, thus enhancing the group's decisionmaking.
  • Judges will want to be sure the families in question are appropriate for circle process before referring them to this method of resolving disputes.
  • Circle processes can result in improved communication and relations among families in conflict.
  • Circle process reflects the values of "original dispute resolution," which often in turn reflects ubuntu, the idea that all humankind is interconnected.
  • Circle process is part of a greater movement towards law as a healing profession/the comprehensive law movement, which includes therapeutic jurisprudence.


Posted by CoParenting

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"I don't care who I live with. I love you both. Please don't make me choose - just tell me." - Nine-year-old boy