The evidence that the family court system is failing is overwhelming… an attorney shares her thoughts on common concerns, and encourages family law professionals to be part of the solution. As a parent involved in family court, I offer my thoughts as well.
As a child, Michelle Crosby vividly recalled the pain of her parents’ divorce, which later became the catalyst for her to enter law school. Crosby has since dedicated her life to helping families involved in divorce or custody proceedings reach resolution without getting stuck in the legal system. She is the founder and CEO of Wevorce a company that offers an innovative approach to deal with divorce more amicably that is customized to the individual needs of each family, and is settlement focused.
In the article Family Law Is Broken. Let’s Fix It. Crosby, says that family law or “the business of divorce” is broken and does not work for anyone – not couples, not children, and not even the judges, attorneys and professionals driving the system.
Crosby shares some common problems facing the family court system:
** The family court system is designed to work for society as a whole and not designed to individually address each family’s problems. Crosby says that in order to meet the demands of a large group of people, family courts seek a traditional or “cookie cutter” approach to cases and expect all families to comply no matter how complex or unique their needs are.
** The family courts are underfunded and ill-equipped to handle complex cases that require more time and resources to reach a resolution.
**Couples entering family court have no idea of what they are getting into when litigation begins but the courts do, attorneys do. Many litigants do not understand the court process. When seeking help, the complexity of what is involved as well as the variety of services makes it hard to be an “informed consumer” when getting the right professional help for your situation. (In my opinion, this creates an imbalance of power which makes litigants/parents more vulnerable. — Especially when that litigant/parent cannot afford legal help and is forced to represent themselves pro se.)
** Finally, Crosby says divorce is looked at as a legal issue alone and that emotional issues must also be considered when seeking resolution for families. She warns, “Until we change this mindset that divorce equals law (and therefore lawyers, big legal bills, fighting, courtrooms, and so on), we don’t have a chance to change how divorce is done…”
Crosby is optimistic that the family court process can be improved, and that families will fare better if law professionals work together to seek solutions. She encourages professional involvement (mediators, therapist, community orgs, etc) so that families become more empowered, and are given more choices to resolve their own divorce in a more personalized way that does not overly rely on the court. Crosby also advises that litigants/parents “ take ownership of their divorce and what their family’s unique situation requires…”
** RESPONSE **
Family court is, itself, is trapped in it’s own messy divorce with the families who come under it’s jurisdiction.
The family court system is broken and failing miserably and that is clear.
Some would say family court is corrupt. Or that family court operates like a business, a “court-oration” that profits off keeping families in the system. Others place the fault at pro se litigants, claiming those who do not have attorneys clog up the system by filing frivolous motions or creating conflict. Or simply excuse complaints about the court system as coming from “disgruntled” litigants.
Whatever you believe the evidence of the failings of family court are overwhelming – most families leave court in a worse position than when litigation began.
Common complaints about family court include:
Domestic abuse survivors are pressured or threatened to stop reporting abuse by judges, GALs and other court professionals; and punished when trying to protect children from harm.
Children are court ordered into the custody and care of abusive, unfit parents at alarming rates. Many of these children are re-abused, some are even murdered.
When abusive, dysfunctional parents gain custody (and it is usually sole custody) they continue to abuse their ex partner, and children and are more likely to sabotage the child’s relationship with the other parent.
Laws are routinely broken in family court, and the Constitutional rights of parents/litigants violated.
Family Courts easily remove children from the custody of parents and do so by stripping parents of their legal rights, and denying due process.
Litigant/parents have little or no recourse while judges, GALs and other court professionals receive immunity.
And justice is denied.
So now you have families dealing with the challenges of divorce and/or child custody, grappling with various issues that are both material and emotional, entering a court system that is itself abusive, dysfunctional and chaotic. Litigants enter the system seeking resolution for their family’s own problems and ultimately find themselves in a tug-of-war for their children, their finances, their assets, their reputations and even their freedoms against the court itself.
The children involved in these cases spend their whole childhood involved in litigation; subjected to invasive interventions from the court’s cottage industry of professionals that disrupt their lives. Parents who once made decisions for their children are now being overruled by complete strangers working in the system who know what is “best” and often make assertions without having the proper credentials to do so. Even the relationship between the parent and child is subject to revision through use of aggressive demands, as well as psychological treatment placed on parent and child by court order. In a large number of cases fit, loving parents lose custody of children and/or visitation is severely limited while abusive, dysfunctional parents are given sole custody (and preferential treatment). Some parents become permanently estranged from children, and lose all contact. All of this, supposedly, in the “best interest” of children.
The result, predictably, is more pain, stress and strife for families – many who find themselves trapped in the legal system for years and years, and leave family court traumatized, their lives totally devastated at every level.
I appreciate the insights Michelle Crosby has shared. And applaud her willingness to seek solutions by reaching out to all involved in proceedings – family law professionals, community providers and parents. I agree with Crosby that solutions to “fix” family law should involve not only addressing the systemic problems but also assisting families to seek solutions privately, keeping the role of the court minimal.
But at the same time, the injustices happening in family court cannot and should not be ignored. There needs to be more transparency in the court system, and more accountability overall. Litigants/parents should be given effective means to file complaints and have them heard. Judges, GALs and court professionals should face real discipline when they act outside their mandated duties, or when they break the law.
The court system also needs to develop better practices when allegations of domestic abuse or child abuse are raised. Victims should be protected – not punished.
Fix family law.. alot of work needs to be done! What are your ideas? Please post below – together let’s be part of the solution.
~ “Emily Court”