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UNIFIED FAMILY COURT NOTICE
Honorable Kim Berkeley Clark
The Unified Family Court began January 25, 2010. You may notice that some cases
may be reassigned in order to be more consistent with the “One Judge, One
Family” policy. If you believe that a case has been reassigned in error, please
prepare and present a written motion with a proposed reassignment order to the assigned
judge and serve a courtesy copy of that motion upon the Judge to whom you think
the case should be assigned.
Welcome to the Family Division of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County!
The mission of the Family Division is to resolve family legal issues in a user-friendly
forum which maximizes access to the Court, and best addresses the important and
unique needs of children and families.
Allegheny County Family Division (Adult and Juvenile Sections) is proud to be a
Unified Family Court. Our Court combines all elements of the traditional juvenile
court functions (delinquency and probation, child protection and dependency, domestic
violence, termination of parental rights, adoptions, mental health hearings, etc.,
in the Juvenile Section) and adult family court functions (child and spousal support,
divorce and equitable distribution, child custody, domestic violence, etc., in the
Adult Section) into one system.
In December 2002, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania selected Allegheny County as
a “pilot county” to implement the unified family court model. This “model”
is outlined by the Supreme Court Domestic Relations Procedural Rules Committee in
Recommendation 55, which became Rule 1931 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure
when it was promulgated by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Our Court’s ultimate
goal is stated in the introduction to Recommendation 55: “to make it easier
for the public to gain access to the family court system and to ensure that family
matters are concluded fairly and expeditiously.”
The new rule outlines procedures for the entry of consent custody agreements, unified
docketing, consolidation of family court matters, prompt decisions, and continuing
education for family court personnel in areas including domestic violence, child
development, family dynamics, addictions and treatments, asset valuation, and community
resources. While this rule focuses primarily on the Adult Section of the Family
Court, many organizations including the American Bar Association, National Council
of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, and our own Family Court judges have long recognized
that there is a connection between and among parties who are involved in legal matters
in both the adult and juvenile sections of the Court, as well as issues that cross
the various systems.
Our judges, anticipating the Pennsylvania Supreme Court rules changes and the need
to more directly address matters affecting families and children involved in multiple
systems within the Family Division, created a third senior administrative office
in April 2001, the Office of Court Services for Children. We have also implemented
numerous cross-systems procedures and programs designed to promote the most efficient
use of Family Court resources and provide a less fragmented court experience for
children and families.
Moving forward, we remain committed to engaging in a collaborative process with
other court systems, the bar, government agencies including the Department of Human
Services, treatment providers, consumers, experts in child development, family dynamics,
mental health, substance abuse, and other stakeholders as we continue to evolve
as a Unified Family Court.