The Family Court of Trinidad and Tobago is an institution unlike any other; from the physical layout of the building, with its refreshing colours and finishes designed to soothe, to the excellent quality of service delivered by highly trained, competent and courteous staff members.
Prior to the establishment of this court, family disputes were being handled in the same court environment as criminal matters and regular civil matters. The atmosphere was not conducive to calm discussion and settlement. It bred combativeness and aggression, was often intimidating, and left the average litigant feeling alienated from the disposition of his own matter. It was not at all helpful in resolving family problems or even recognizing the sensitivity of the issues in family litigation.
The philosophy of the Family Court is "to encourage the parties to resolve their family disputes themselves with specialist assistance and support where ever necessary". It is the intent of the Court to administer justice in family matters in a manner that is less adversarial and more conciliatory. The purpose is to provide families with support while they seek solutions. For some, this will mean counselling, for others a process of mediation where alternatives can be considered. The focus is placed on finding solutions rather than on conflict. The objective is to encourage parties to formulate their own outcomes when possible, but with the understanding that the Court will keep the process moving and will make decisions when necessary. It is a system, which adopts a holistic approach to resolving family disputes and embraces legal, psychological and social issues. However this court is constantly monitored, and continues to evolve in its quest to provide the best possible service.
The Family Court has implemented and evaluated a number of innovations including; the development of a unified Court Office for both High Court and Magistrates' Court matters, and ensuring customers have access to a multi-door/one-shop Court that includes on-site alternative dispute resolution processes such as mediation, social work intervention and probation.
Operations are currently restricted to the St. George West jurisdiction for magisterial proceedings, however, this does not apply to the High Court jurisdiction, where there is no such restriction. Cabinet approval has been granted for the roll out of the Court to other locations, beginning in with San Fernando where the old St. Joseph's Convent building has been acquired for this purpose.