General: The uniform statewide Family Court system was established by statute in 1976. The Family Court has exclusive jurisdiction over all matters involving domestic or family relationships. Pursuant to this provision, the Family Court is the sole forum for the hearing of all cases concerning marriage, divorce, legal separation, custody, visitation rights, termination of parental rights, adoption, support, alimony, division of marital property, and change of name. The court also generally has exclusive jurisdiction over minors under the age of seventeen alleged to have violated any state law or municipal ordinance. However, most traffic, fish, and game law violations are still triable in the magistrate or municipal courts. Serious criminal charges may be transferred to the Circuit Court.
At least two family court judges are elected for staggered six year terms to each of the sixteen judicial circuits, and rotate primarily from county to county within their resident circuits. Occasionally they are assigned to other circuits based upon caseload requirements as directed by the Chief Justice.