Interested in Starting a Family Court Program in Your District?

Find information and implementation strategies for starting a Family Court Program.

Begin by raising awareness about what it means to be a North Carolina Family Court district by reviewing the Family Court Best Practices and Guidelines and watching and sharing the Family Court Orientation video. All local stakeholders (including but not limited to judges, court managers, clerks, guardian ad litem staff, county department of social services (DSS) staff, domestic attorneys, parent attorneys, juvenile justice staff, juvenile delinquency attorneys, and paralegals) will benefit from learning about Family Court best practices and how court-driven scheduling can reduce the length of time for domestic matters to be resolved, which saves money and court time.

Ready to Get Started?
Judicial leadership, typically the chief district court judge, should contact NCAOC Court Programs to express the district’s interest and request funding and pre-implementation assistance. Staffing needs are based on the workload formula. NCAOC will determine budget needs across the branch prior to requesting funding from the legislature. Note: Local stakeholder consensus and support is recommended prior to beginning any pre-implementation work.

Pending Funding Approval

Begin with the following pre-implementation strategies.

  1. Request technical assistance from NCAOC Court Programs.
    1. Court Management Specialists will help judges and court staff review how court is currently scheduled and suggest improvements for scheduling.
    2. Integrate Parent Education (PE) with custody mediation orientation (CMO). NCAOC recommends that court staff present PE immediately following CMO using the statewide materials, either live or via the free 45-minute on-demand training available at the Parent Education Program.
  1. Perform active case management using existing judicial staff.
    1. Review pending domestic cases and backlog.
      1. Use administrative / clean-up calendar for older cases, cases with no service, and / or inactive cases.
    2. Assign one judge / one family for domestic and juvenile for set periods of time.
      1. Assign one judge to all juvenile abuse / neglect / dependency cases in one county (multi-county districts) or
      2. Assign one judge to juvenile court (single county district).
    3. Email domestic court calendars to all parties and/or post court calendars on
    4. Separate general civil and domestic calendars.
    5. Implement dedicated civil domestic violence court session(s).
    6. Compile list of local programs with links to websites (directory of existing community resources/services).
    7. Consider using volunteers for discrete tasks such as compiling a list of local resources for families or pending case review or request help from Court Management Specialists.

After Funding Authorization

NCAOC Court Programs Court Management Specialists will continue to be a resource as the district prepares to launch Family Court.

  1. Convene separate local steering committees for juvenile abuse / neglect / dependency and domestic matters.
    Membership should include the local bar and other key stakeholders to assist with local rules development and for consultation on procedural and programmatic issues.
  2. Review / Update Local Rules
    1. Limit time for temporary hearings.
    2. Use affidavits in lieu of live testimony in temporary hearings where authorized by law.
    3. Exchange juvenile reports prior to the day of hearing.
    4. Address confidentiality and sharing of information (e.g., parties to redact personal identifying information (PII), juvenile matters are confidential).
  3. Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
    In addition to the custody mediation and family financial settlement ADR programs, encourage the local bar to utilize other ADR approaches where resources are available, such as pre-litigation collaborative law.
  4. Training & Community Awareness
    1. Provide CLE/CPE opportunities at the local level on family court local rules and procedures — e.g., Lunch and Learn programs and other topics as requested.
    2. Family Court leadership is encouraged to speak to civic groups.
    3. Use local newspaper(s) to promote family court with a family court centric news article.
    4. Promote the family court through local television, radio interviews, and /or podcasts.