Chicago Appleseed - Fund for Justice

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Child Support Reform

The work of the Chicago Council of Lawyers and Chicago Appleseed in the Domestic Relations court is designed to improve outcomes, particularly for pro se litigants and their children, by reducing wait time for initial support orders, educating parents about the process, and connecting families with a variety of services.

Initial Request

Presiding Judge Grace Dickler requested an examination of the constitutionality of Cook County’s bifurcated child support court wherein support matters for children of never‐married parents are heard in an entirely separate court division from support matters of divorcing parents.

Constitutionality Analysis

With the help of pro bono attorneys at Skadden Arps Meagher & Flom in 2013, Chicago Appleseed interviewed and surveyed practitioners, court staff, law professors and judges to assess whether the bifurcated child support system could withstand a Constitutionality challenge.

Reform Proposal

For 2014, Chicago Appleseed was asked to provide additional research services to Presiding Judge Grace Dickler’s Domestic Relations Task Force, which includes Joan S. Colen as the representative of the Chicago Council of Lawyers. With the help of pro bono assistance from attorneys and staff at Baker McKenzie, we examined California’s Family Law Facilitator Agency and proposed a new Domestic Relations court based on the innovations of the community courts model.

Next Steps

For 2015, Chicago Council of Lawyers and Chicago Appleseed will be working collaboratively to help create a pilot courtroom for a new domestic relations process. The new process will focus on providing integrated family services and facilitation settlement of child support and parenting issues. We will help craft an operations plan, and provide technical assistance in identifying partners and resources for implementation and evaluation of the pilot program.
For more information, please contact Executive Director Malcolm Rich, at or 312-988-6552