Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Secret Rules of Family Court

Today I spoke with a parent who was following the direction of the court, and in so doing, contacted a Psychologist as directed. From the conversation that occurred between this parent and the Psychologist, it became fairly clear to me that the court had not been clear about the role that this Psychologist was supposed to play, that of evaluator or that of therapist. This is a very significant distinction in that the role of a therapist and the role of an evaluator are as different as night and day. It is surprising that very often, Family Law Judges are not aware of this distinction, and therefore issue unclear and ambiguous orders. The significance of this is that if she, in fact, was to contact this Psychologist to act as an evaluator, she herself should not have contacted him, but her lawyer should have. Her contacting him, assuming he was to act as an evaluator, would have tainted his objectivity to the degree that he probably would have declined to take the job as evaluator. The problem is nobody tells you these rules before you enter into these actions. The fact of the matter is that many otherwise well qualified attorneys and judges do not really understand this. I know that this must sound ridiculous, however I suspect many who may read this post can describe the price they ended up paying for not knowing any better

In Family Law there are many rules that are never described. Most often, parents learn of them after they inadvertently break them, honestly not knowing any better. In the adversarial environment of the the court, the hapless parent in the hypothetical example described above, could have been portrayed by the other side as perhaps sabotaging the whole process and the court's wishes, which was never the case at all. I would have difficulty counting the number of times I have heard the comment that "if I only understood then, what I now have learned now, none of this would have happened."

1 comment:

dawn said...

It's even worse when there isn't a Family Court to work with. The judge gave my husband 10 minutes to plead his case over the phone because he had to get to a murder trial next.