Family Justice Now!
“This is the (equivalent of the) death penalty of a civil case. What could be worse for a normal parent than to say you no longer have any rights to this child?”–Associate Appellate Court Judge Jennifer Bailey (4th DCA, Florida)
Grave injustices are being done to our children by family court systems. They have been taking away the constitutional rights of children and parents alike. In draconian procedures, children are being separated from a parent, denied visitation, even denied contact at all with that parent – all due to litigious, callous decisions or thoughtless delays by family court judges.
Ideally, every child should be nurtured by both parents without government interference. Florida courts have ruled that parents should be able to raise their children without any invasion of privacy from government interference, barring abuse or extreme cases of neglect of the children. Common sense tells us that visitation rights should never be denied a good parent.
Yet all too frequently, family courts are denying these very rights to many parents and children appearing before them, by refusing to uphold their own rulings once the custodial parent has been appointed. The following are some of the most common failings of our family courts:
- Visitation by the non-custodial parent and often their extended family is being blocked by the custodial parent, in defiance of court rulings, and with impunity.
- Judges are negligently refusing to enforce their own rulings.
- Family Court judges are allowing attorneys to make civil cases out of custody hearings.
- Parents are being falsely accused of abuse or mental instability, without due process and without the right to be heard by a jury
- Judges all too often display unbridled bias.
- The term “parental alienation” has become a dangerous tool in custody disputes, tearing families apart, and denying children their right to loving parents.
- Judges often refuse to let the child be heard, even adolescents.
- In at least one Florida courthouse, the public is banned from the courtroom completely while these hearings take place, decreasing any public pressure on the judges to keep the children’s welfare foremost.
These never-ending courtroom battles are causing the less powerful parent to lose everything, become impoverished, and live lives of despair. The parent with the most money, power, and influence is somehow able to convince judges that only their side need be heard in order to make a decision.
To make matters worse, throughout the country, women are losing custody of their children to men with histories of child abuse and domestic violence. These men know how to manipulate the judicial system. The cases are being over-litigated and dragged out for years. Most mothers do not have the financial resources to defend themselves and their children in court. Children are becoming emotionally damaged due to being isolated from their mothers and extended families.
Domestic violence in the home is affecting children, and many times the batterer is physically and/or sexually abusing the children as well as the mother who tries to protect her children by seeking divorce and custody of the children. Domestic violence often escalates during separation and divorce. Individuals who batter their partners are twice as likely to seek sole custody of their children than nonviolent parents, and may misuse the legal system as a forum for continuing abuse through harassing and retaliatory actions. At least 38 states stipulate that judges must consider domestic violence and battering when making custody decisions; all too often, this is ignored and custody is given to the abusers.
NOW developed FACTs, a Court Watch system with volunteers who observe courtroom proceedings, review the behavior of the judges and attorneys, and plan actions to address this crisis. This was in response to the tremendous upsurge in cries for help from women, with numerous calls asking for assistance and support concerning family law issues. NOW FACTs’ goal is to educate and hold the justice system accountable for its actions.
If you would like to help by taking action, please volunteer by calling (800)-201-5560 or e-mail FACTSCourtWatch@gmail.com. You can also insist upon changes by contacting legislators, the Judicial Qualifications Commission, the governor’s office, and any local court.
Please read the linked biographies of several families and the terrible damage and disservice family courts have caused them and hundreds of thousands more.