How Can This Happen in Our Justice System?
Before we got trapped in the family courts ourselves, like many people, we didn’t understand how all of this could happen. We believed in our justice system, and we trusted that the process and professionals were fair and objective.
Adversarial Approach to Families
Does the adversarial nature of our justice system serve the best interests of children and families?
When parents don’t agree about their child, they turn to lawyers for help, not necessarily to escalate conflict.
When one parent and attorney do not want to settle—or worse, want to win—problems do escalate.
In this adversarial process, attorneys represent one parent only, and their objective is to help their client win—which means the other parent loses. The more aggressive the instigating party and attorney are, the fewer choices the other parent has.
Should I fight for what is in the best interest of my child (e.g., have me in their life or protect them from abuse)? Or, give up and sacrifice my child?
What’s Really Going On?
When judges can not make heads or tails out of the he said/she said narrative from parents and their attorneys, they assign professionals—who, in an ideal world, are impartial and objective—to assess the situation and advise the court.
Ethical and competent professionals help parents resolve disputes.
Unethical and incompetent professionals, on the other hand, create and exacerbate disputes.
Profiting from Court Cases
There are huge profits to be made by providing services to families in court cases.
Judges order parents to participate and pay for services.
Parents must pay the rates that the provider sets, which are often exorbitant. If parents do not or can not pay, the court will enforce payment.
Providers profit less from resolving problems, and profit more from escalating problems. Unscrupulous practitioners take advantage of this situation.
Parents and children are caught in a vicious cycle. When one approach fails (for whatever reason), the family is referred to another approach. And so on until the conflict becomes irreparable and finances are drained.
Why do approaches fail?
- A parent and attorney are dissatisfied with an outcome and seek an alternative
- A practitioner does not resolve disputes, or makes matters worse so another practitioner is brought in
- A judge requires additional information
The adage “It takes two to tango” grossly oversimplifies what happens in family court cases. A parent can not stop the other parent from suing or making false allegations, which the courts investigate.
When a parent is not the initiator of litigation, this parent has few, if any, real choices. In cases like these—high conflict cases—while a parent could give up, in reality that means giving up their children … and this is not a real option for many.
Like other forms of litigation, refusing to participate comes at great cost. Parents can not simply walk away from litigation, especially when they are court-ordered to participate.
- Collaborative approach. Eliminate the adversarial approach in family matters.
- Support therapy outside of litigation
- Support both parents being in the child’s life when both are healthy and responsible
- Ensure that all professionals conduct themselves with integrity and objectivity
- Make resolving disputes affordable and remove the profit incentives