[T]he real thrust of the separation of powers philosophy is that each department of government must be kept free from the control or coercive influence of the other departments.

October 30, 2016 § Leave a comment

http://www.leagle.com/decision/197912976Ill2d53_1124.xml/STRUKOFF%20v.%20STRUKOFF

It has been generally recognized that separation of powers does not forbid every exercise of functions by one branch of government which conventionally [are] exercised by another branch. Professor Frank Cooper (1 F. Cooper, State Administrative Law 16 (1965)) observes: `[T]he real thrust of the separation of powers philosophy is that each department of government must be kept free from the control or coercive influence of the other departments.’ In Agran v. Checker Taxi Co. (1952), 412 Ill. 145, a statute requiring the giving of a five-day notice to every attorney of record prior to ex parte action to dismiss a case for want of prosecution was held invalid as a legislative encroachment upon the inherent judicial power to adjudge, determine and render a judgment. This court said: The General Assembly has power to enact laws governing judicial practice only where they do not unduly infringe upon the inherent powers of the judiciary. (People v. Callopy, 358 Ill. 11.) Were this not true, a basic tenet of our democratic form of government would be destroyed, and the relevant constitutional provisions rendered nugatory. It is the undisputed duty of the court to protect its judicial powers from encroachment by legislative enactments, and thus preserve an independent judicial department. Agran v. Checker Taxi Co. (1952), 412 Ill. 145, 149. But the situation in Agran was distinguished in People ex rel. County Collector v. Jeri, Ltd. (1968), 40 Ill.2d 293, where the petitioner, relying on Agran, contended that a statutory requirement of attaching a transcript of evidence relating to the findings of the trial court to a court order for the issuance of a tax deed constituted a legislative infringement on the power of the judiciary to regulate the day-to-day functions of courtroom procedure. (40 Ill.2d 293, 295.) This court rejected the contention and, noting the dissimilarity from Agran, said that proceedings relating to tax sales, redemptions and deeds are entirely statutory in origin and nature. (40 Ill.2d 293, 301.) The court determined that the requirement in question was but one of many statutory conditions upon which issuance of a tax deed is predicated. This requirement does not purport to direct how a court should decide cases nor does it circumscribe the power of a judge to determine facts and apply the law to them. 40 Ill.2d 293, 302. Like the proceeding involved in People ex rel. County Collector v. Jeri, Ltd. (1968), 40 Ill.2d 293, dissolution of marriage is entirely statutory in origin and nature. (People ex rel. Doty v. Connell (1956), 9 Ill.2d 390, 394; People ex rel. Christiansen v. Connell (1954), 2 Ill.2d 332, 341; McFarlin v. McFarlin (1943), 384 Ill. 428, 430-31; see Galvin v. Galvin (1978), 72 Ill.2d 113, 119.) The statement of this court in McFarlin v. McFarlin (1943), 384 Ill. 428, 430-31, illustrates this: Courts of equity have no inherent power in cases of divorce. The jurisdiction of such courts to hear and determine divorce matters is conferred only by statute. While such courts may exercise their powers within the limits of the jurisdiction conferred by the statute, the jurisdiction depends upon the grant of the statute and not upon general equity powers. The legislature has stated the purposes of the Act in the statute itself. They include the promotion of amicable settlements of disputes between parties to a marriage, the mitigation of potential harm to spouses and their children caused by the process of dissolution, the making of reasonable provision for spouses and minor children after litigation, and elimination of marital misconduct from consideration in the adjudication of rights and duties incident to legal dissolution of marriage. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 40, par. 102.) The purpose of the specified waiting period between the hearings in contested trials, obviously in aid of the Act’s general purposes, is to encourage the amicable settlement of remaining issues. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 40, par. 403(e).) The objectives of legislation of this character are unquestionably laudable (Kujawinski v. Kujawinski (1978), 71 Ill.2d 563, 576; People ex rel. Doty v. Connell (1956), 9 Ill.2d 390, 394), reasonable, and within the province of legislative power (Kujawinski v. Kujawinski (1978), 71 Ill.2d 563, 576). Supreme Court Rule 1 provides in part: The rules on proceedings in the trial court, together with the Civil Practice Act and the Code of Criminal Procedure, govern all proceedings in the trial court, except to the extent that the procedure in a particular kind of action, such as attachment, is regulated by a statute other than the Civil Practice Act. (58 Ill.2d R. 1.) Dissolution of marriage is a particular kind of action regulated in part by a statute other than the Civil Practice Act or our rules. Because of the nature of section 403(e) and because there is no conflict with a rule of this court, the procedural requirements of section 403(e) of the Act are not an unconstitutional legislative encroachment upon the rulemaking power of the judicial branch. We would note parenthetically that statutory provisions governing procedure are not uncommon (e.g., Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 38, par. 9-1(d) (separate sentencing hearing); Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 38, par. 1005-2-1 (fitness for trial or sentencing); Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 40, pars. 1516, 1517 (adoption); Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 45, par. 44 (suggestion of damages in ejectment); Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 46, par. 23-13 (notice of intent to contest election); Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 47, pars. 2.2(b), (c) (eminent domain); Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 102, par. 14 (taxpayer suit to enjoin disbursement of public money)). See People v. Spegal (1955), 5 Ill.2d 211, 221. We consider that the parties could not waive the provision for an interval between the hearings called for by section 403(e). The language of the legislature is that the court shall allow not less than 48 hours for the parties to settle amicably the remaining issues before resuming the trial. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 40, par. 403(e).) The provision is mandatory and not discretionary, and the noncompliance in the trial court will require reversal of the judgment as it relates to the second hearing. (The contentions of the plaintiff as to the property disposition ordered have not been argued and briefed by the defendant, and we shall not consider them in this opinion.) An action for dissolution of marriage affects society, and it involves interests other than those of the parties themselves. (People ex rel. Doty v. Connell (1956), 9 Ill.2d 390, 394.) In the light of the Act’s purposes, we consider that the provision for bifurcated hearings and the interval to afford the parties an opportunity to settle amicably remaining questions are not unreasonable conditions in this statutorily created proceeding. (See Kujawinski v. Kujawinski (1978), 71 Ill.2d 563, 576; People ex rel. Doty v. Connell (1956), 9 Ill.2d 390, 396.) We do not see grounds to fear that prejudice to the parties or a party will be caused by the provisions we are considering. Marital misconduct may not be considered under the Act in regard to the disposition of property, maintenance, child support and child custody (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 40, pars. 503(c), 504(b), 505, 602(b)), and there could not reasonably be harm to a party under the Act by a separate, prior hearing on the claimed grounds for dissolution. Temporary relief is available under the Act to protect the rights of parties and their children in the event that the specified interval between the hearings might otherwise result in prejudice to their respective rights. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 40, par. 501.) Too, the court may consider a party’s dissipation of marital and nonmarital property in deciding on the division of property. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 40, par. 503(c)(1). For the reasons given, the judgment of the trial court is reversed, excepting that portion of the judgment which orders the dissolution of the marriage, and the cause is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. Affirmed in part and reversed in part and remanded. MR. JUSTICE RYAN took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

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Parental Alienation (emotional incest)

July 13, 2016 § Leave a comment

Mom loses custody for alienating dad
In a stunning and unusual family law decision, a Toronto judge has stripped a mother of custody of her three children after the woman spent more than a decade trying to alienate them from their father.

By TRACEY TYLERLEGAL AFFAIRS REPORTER
Sat., Jan. 24, 2009
In a stunning and unusual family law decision, a Toronto judge has stripped a mother of custody of her three children after the woman spent more than a decade trying to alienate them from their father.

The mother’s “consistent and overwhelming” campaign to brainwash the children into thinking their father was a bad person was nothing short of emotional abuse, Justice Faye McWatt of the Superior Court of Justice wrote in her decision.

The three girls, ages 9 to 14, were brought to a downtown courthouse last Friday and turned over to their father, a vascular surgeon identified only as A.L.

Their mother, a chiropodist identified as K.D., was ordered to stay away from the building during the transfer and to have her daughters’ clothing and possessions sent to their father’s house.

McWatt stipulated that K.D. is to have no access to the children except in conjunction with counselling, including a special intensive therapy program for children affected by “parental alienation syndrome.” The mother must bear the costs.

Harold Niman, the father’s lawyer, said the decision serves as a wake-up call to parents who, “for bitterness, anger or whatever reason,” decide to use their children to punish their former partners.

“Maybe if they realize the courts will actually step in and do something and there is a risk of not only losing custody, but having no contact with their children, they’ll think twice about it,” Niman said in an interview.

McWatt’s judgment was released Jan. 16 and published on legal databases this week. By yesterday, it was a hot topic within the family law bar.

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The judge said awarding A.L. sole custody was the children’s only hope for having a relationship with their father, given their mother’s long-running transgressions.

These include ignoring court orders, shutting the door in A.L.’s face when he came to collect the children and refusing to answer the phone when he called to say goodnight. (He was granted telephone access to say good night on Monday, Wednesday and Friday). At times, she also arranged for police to show up when her daughters had overnight visits with their father.

Eventually, K.D. cut off contact altogether, refusing to allow A.L. to see or speak with his daughters. He was reduced to shouting goodnight to them through the door of their home, often not knowing whether they were there.

“It is remarkable that A.L. has not given in to the respondent’s persistence in keeping his children from him over the last fourteen years and simply gone on with his life without the children as, no doubt many other parents in the same situation would have and, indeed, have done,” McWatt said.

The mother squandered several chances to change her behaviour and is unable to accept it is in her children’s best interests to have a relationship with their father, the judge said.

Nicholas Bala, a Queen’s University law professor who specializes in family law, said “badmouthing” or negative attitudes by one parent toward another is quite common among separated couples. But in recent years, the justice system has begun to understand the harmful effects of the worst form of this behaviour.

In most cases, the problem is resolved through counselling, where parents are encouraged to accept they’ll both always be in their children’s lives, said Bala. “I tell them, `… if you’re the survivor, you’ll be going to the other’s funeral, not because you love that person, but to support your children.’

“Having said that, there are some people – and I think some of them are suffering from personality disorders – who will not respond to therapy and will not respond to directions from judges.”

Transferring custody is a last resort, because “it can be quite dramatic and traumatic” – yet sometimes better than the alternative, said Bala.

“We often talk about the best interests of the child, but often it’s the least detrimental alternative, really.”

Bala said courts are unlikely to take such a drastic step without hearing expert testimony about what’s happening in the family. A child may be avoiding a parent for legitimate reasons such as physical or emotional abuse.

McWatt heard testimony from Barbara Fidler, a Toronto mediator and clinical psychologist who predicted eight years ago the three girls were at risk of becoming alienated from their father.

The Office of the Children’s Lawyer argued the family dynamics could not continue.

Fidler said research points to long-term damage in people alienated from a parent in childhood.

Children are more susceptible at about age 10 or 11, after their brains have developed to the point where they can hold positive and negative information about a parent.

If what one parent is saying about the other doesn’t accord with their own perceptions, they can become confused.

In some cases, the only way out of the emotional conflict is to take one parent’s side. The child can even begin inventing his or her own reasons for hating the other parent, the court was told.

Early intervention is best, Niman said.”Really, parental alienation is a process. If you can nip it in the bud, that’s the best advice I can give to clients.

“Because the longer it goes on, the more difficult it can be to undo.”

The Appearance that Pam L. office has lots of shadows and they run deep into the pockets of Title IV monies and Massive GREED from the state actors.

March 5, 2016 § Leave a comment

The Herald-Review (Decatur IL, USA)
21 February 1999
Former State Resident Given Formal Apology by Illinois Division of Child Support Enforcement.

by Amanda Wilson

The Illinois State Supreme Court has ordered Guy Hastings, Director of Child Support Enforcement, to send a formal letter of apology to a former Illinois state resident who was forced to pay $9000 more in support than ordered. Paul Laird, now a resident of Washington state and a former resident of Strasburg, IL, has said he will make a written statement in a few days. The Court also ordered DCSE to pay him almost $150,000 in punitive damages.

The pertinent facts are not in dispute. Mr. Laird was ordered to pay $400/mo in child support in 1985. Kankakee County records indicate Mr. Laird had voluntarily overpaid his account by May, 1991. That is when his troubles started.

Mr. Laird was forced to take a medical leave of absence due to Multiple Sclerosis. He presented Illinois DCSE doctor statements and 7 requests for temporary reduction from November 1991 through May, 1993. He was never answered by Illinois DCSE and they now admit that he did send the request and that those requests were ignored. They also admit Mr. Laird never missed a payment.

A suit was filed by DCSE in November, 1993 to modify the child support award. Mr. Laird was never notified of this hearing. The department received a default judgment increasing the support amount to $800. DCSE admits Mr. Laird was never notified of the new amount.

The amount was reduced in 1996 back to the original $400 figure. DCSE CONTINUED to count the extra $400 from November 1993 to October, 1996 as child support arrears. They garnished his wages, filed liens against him, reported him to CREDIT BUREAUS and continue collection thought taking his IRS refunds. Mr. Laird filed suit in 1996 against DCSE and specific employees within that agency. The Appellate Court awarded him almost $60,000 in January, 1998. That judgment has been paid.

The State’s Attorney of Champaign County filed charges of malfesciance of office against three DCSE employees – Karen Breaker, Linda Richardson, and Barbara McCloud. Breaker and Richardson were also tried on perjury, falsifiction of records, and theft. McCloud was found not guilty in November, 1998. Breaker plead guilty to the charge of perjury and falsification in a plea bargain. Ms. Richardson was found guilty on all counts and sentenced to 18 months in prison. All three lost their jobs with
Illinois DCSE.

This is only the first of 8 cases against the Champaign office. In the most recent case a custodial mother received child support payments 9 months after the father made payments through the court. The father in this case was prosecuted for non-payment and was found not guilty when he presented receipts and cancelled checks. A check by the Auditor’s office revealed a practice by the Champaign office of putting support checks in a hidden fund to draw interest for the state. That case has been merged with 7 others in a class action lawsuit. It is scheduled to be heard in April, 2000.

Governor Ryan and his cabinet were unavailable for comment. This reporter has verified that the governor urged DCSE to settle this case out-of-court and that Mr. Hastings refused. DCSE director Hastings also had no comment.

Because the state was found to have acted fraudulently in his case, the Supreme Court had to rule on punitive damages.

Legally Kidnapped A judge to order Illinois reforms for child services

February 20, 2015 § Leave a comment

Legally Kidnapped
Rampant medication use found among L.A. County foster, delinquent kids
Raising our children on fear
ACLU asks judge to order Illinois reforms for child services
Rauner faces pressure from ACLU to overhaul child services
Orphan Trains were precursor to child foster system
Woman stabbed to death by foster child ‘very sweet’, inquiry hears
Michael Beer Indicted On 1st Degree Murder Charge In Death Of Foster Child Trysten Adams
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Woman stabbed to death by her foster child ‘wanted to help kids’
$558 per hour paid out in child-welfare case
Rampant medication use found among L.A. County foster, delinquent kids
Posted: 17 Feb 2015 04:50 AM PST
Rampant medication use found among L.A. County foster, delinquent kids

Los Angeles County officials are allowing the use of powerful psychiatric drugs on far more children in the juvenile delinquency and foster care systems than they had previously acknowledged, according to data obtained by The Times through a Public Records Act request.

Raising our children on fear
Posted: 17 Feb 2015 04:42 AM PST
Raising our children on fear

We all want what is best for our children. We want them to be happy and successful, and we want to protect them from harm. But what if we are protecting them from extremely remote threats while ignoring the things that most endanger their well-being?
ACLU asks judge to order Illinois reforms for child services
Posted: 16 Feb 2015 09:33 PM PST
ACLU asks judge to order Illinois reforms for child services

The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois has asked a federal judge to order the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to start enacting court-ordered reforms.
Rauner faces pressure from ACLU to overhaul child services
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First-term Gov. Bruce Rauner has come under increasing pressure to overhaul Illinois’ troubled child welfare system after a leading civil rights group asked for quick federal court action over “dangerously inadequate” care and services.

Orphan Trains were precursor to child foster system
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An estimated 250,000 orphaned, abandoned and homeless children were placed with families throughout the United States and Canada during the Orphan Train Movement from 1854 to 1929. The majority of these children lived in New York City and found themselves destitute for a number of reasons.

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Holding Family Law Judges Accountable on reversible error in appellate court on statutory law.

March 12, 2014 § Leave a comment

Holding Family Law Judges Accountable

Written by: 

Guess what group is among top of those showing contempt of court?

Family Law Judges!

Family law courts in the United States are a disgusting and abusive mess. While we can’t blame it all on the judges as many problems are caused by lying litigants, the judges are ultimately responsible for most of the problems. They should be upholding the law, ensuring that people’s rights are not violated, and requiring reasonable proof of allegations before they are acted upon. But in the United States today, that’s not the function of family law judges.

Family Law Judges Rubber-Stamp Civil Rights Abuses

Today’s family law judges are generally rubber stamps for civil rights abuses. It is routine for due process to be violated. Unequal protection by the law is the norm. The judges generally think this is all OK because family law courts aren’t criminal courts.

Judges complain they don’t have enough time to handle the numerous cases they have. They complain about budget cuts. They complain about needless litigation. Whose fault is all of that? They should look themselves in their mirrors as they have created the problems that have lead to the family law courts being overwhelmed with destructive litigation.

Family Law Courts Reward Criminals, Punish Victims

For starters, their failure to punish perjury results in massive increases in court hearings. It also results in far more complicated cases in which innocent parties who are being truthful are abused by lying litigants with the assistance of incompetent judges. And all of this adds up to spiraling legal costs which often don’t end until after all of the marital assets are depleted.

The judges who don’t punish perjury are often the same incompetent judges who think they can tell the truth without reading court filings and without strong evidentiary standards. Such judges are enablers and co-conspirators of government abuse against honest people. They may argue that they “don’t have time to punish perjury”, but their arguments are invalid. Failure to punish perjury guarantees there will be a lot more of it and that injustices, countless unwarranted court hearings, and abuse of innocent children and parents will be the norm. Failure to punish perjury means the load on the family court system is higher than it would have been if perjury was punished all the way along.

Because incompetent judges reward perjury, dishonest litigants quickly learn that whenever they are unhappy, all they have to do is make up a new set of lies and tell it to the judge who, in his or her “exercising extreme caution” will likely violate the US Constitution, throw due process out the window, and strip those falsely accused by family court liars of their rights.

Typical Family Law Abuses Include “Kick Out” Orders

The victims often don’t even know destruction is coming until after they are served with papers kicking them out of their homes and banning them from seeing their children. Their “due process” consists of being persecuted and severely harmed prior to a chance to defend themselves from false accusations, often months and sometimes years later. And those are the ones who can afford attorneys — many others can’t and have their civil rights totally trampled as the lying ex, her or his attorney, and the incompetent judge skewer people who are already badly harmed and weakened by severe financial and psychological damage caused by the aggression, dishonesty, and lawlessness shown towards them.

Courts Ban Parents From Seeing Children Without Due Process

What rights do people lose because of incompetent judges? They usually lose their access to their children and most of their income for “child support” payments calculated with zero custody time based upon false accusations. Add to those falsely obtained child support payments the horrendously expensive supervised visitations that can cost more than a person makes per month, often at $30 to $100 (or more!) per hour, to be watched like a hawk by strangers while they are with their children. This can last for months or years, bankrupting these victims and eventually meaning they can no longer afford to see their children. Then the courts are likely to rule that they will continue to have zero custody because they didn’t care enough to see their children!

Courts Encourage Financial Victimization by Aggressor Spouses

It’s also common to be kicked out of one’s home with no advance notice. As a result, one may lose all of his or her property for months or years or forever. When this is brought up in court, the judges whine about how they can’t talk about property issues until the end of the divorce case. By then, likely years later, much or all of the property will have been lost, destroyed, sold, and stolen — hmm, it was all already stolen with help of the court — stolen yet again. All of this can’t really be proven because the liar who requested the court to abuse his or her ex didn’t document what the property was, the victim didn’t have a chance to do so, either, and the court will seldom if ever require such documentation and seldom if ever gets neutral third parties to create it. Even if they did, they would provide ample time for the liar to make property disappear prior to a neutral third party showing up to photograph or videotape the property.

Further compounding the damage, the debt on the home one can no longer enter or approach and property which one can no longer have is often ordered to be paid for by the victim of family law courts. The lying ex will be living in it, possibly with the person with whom he or she had an affair. But the victim will be paying for 50% or more of it, sometimes even 100%.

How to Report Bad Family Law Judges

None of this is going to change unless the courts and specifically the judges are held accountable for their incompetent and abusive actions.

How are we, the victims of family law courts, supposed to hold judges accountable?

Generally speaking, except for extreme abuses, it does not appear that state judicial boards take most complaints seriously. However, if they receive massive quantities of detailed complaints about a judge, perhaps they will take note.

You can fill out surveys and post comments about judges across the US at Courthouse Forum.

You can find similarly abused parties in your area and protest the court. Picket it. Be sure to put the name of the abusive judge on big signs when you picket the courthouse. Although death threats may seem appropriate, don’t use them because you might end up with local law enforcement causing even more trouble for you.

Contact local media and explain to them how abusive and irresponsible a judge is being. You might actually get an article written about it, especially if there are many people being abused by the judge. For example, see the Sacramento News & Review article Down by law: Beaten by the system, four fearless Sacramentans coulda been contenders.

Campaign Against Bad Family Law Judges

Most judges at some point have to run for re-election. You can campaign against them. Rally together with people who have been abused to hold them accountable and ensure they are not re-elected. Expose their dirty laundry during the election. Even if it does not affect that particular election, if enough of this is done consistently, it will probably result in candidates in future elections focusing on compliance with US law, punishment of perjury and contempt of court, and use of evidentiary standards of at least “clear and convincing evidence” before people’s rights are stripped away.

It’s up to those abused by the courts to force change. That’s because politicians don’t care and most people have no clue how evil the family law courts in this country have become. They won’t find out until they end up in them, and that’s too late to do much to force change as then they are in the middle of a war that will likely destroy their lives.

Further Reading

A Judge’s View of “Best Interests of the Children”

Cole Stuart’s Review of Baskerville’s “Taken Into Custody”

Commissioner IRWIN H. JOSEPH Orders NO EVIDENCE ALLOWED

More News on Santa Cruz County Family Law Courts and despicable Commissioner Irwin H. Joseph

San Jose Mercury News: Tainted Trials, Stolen Justice

San Jose Mercury News: Broken Families, Broken Courts

The appearance of abuse in Family Courts System Expensive, Inefficient And Abusive to children ,,,,

March 10, 2014 § 1 Comment

Opinion: Family Court System Expensive, Inefficient And Abusive

PETER T. SZYMONIK03/06/2014

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On Feb. 26, there was a historic vote at the state Capitol in which family court Judge Leslie Olear was only narrowly reappointed by the legislature. This vote came after public protests which gained media attention and after legislators were called into action to address the serious problems in our state’s family courts. After this vote, some members of the legal community understandably rushed to defend Judge Olear, claiming that the votes against her were politically motivated and only in response to complaints being expressed by a “small number of family court critics.” This is simply not the case.

This vote came after scores of parents, adult children of divorce, grandparents, attorneys and business executives testified until the early morning hours in front of a task force in January, after more than 630 parents signed a petition demanding legislative reforms of the family court’s broken guardian ad litem (GAL) system, and after legislators were inundated with thousands of complaints about our family courts from parents, as consumers of the family court system’s services.

In an op-ed piece submitted to the Law Tribune, Kimberly Knox, president of the Connecticut Bar Association, fell back on well-worn industry rhetoric trying to blame the actual victims in this scenario — the thousands of parents and families who have been financially devastated and unfairly denied access to their children solely due the problems in our family courts. The vote on Feb. 26 was not about a judge and what was in her best interests. The vote was about parents, children, families, citizens and taxpayers and what is in our best interests. The protests and the vote reflected how expensive, ineffective, abusive and damaging our family courts have become.

Unfortunately, Olear did not come before the legislature with a stellar record. In 2011, the state Supreme Court overturned a custody case ruling made by Olear where Chief Justice Chase Rogers expressed strong constitutional concerns. The opinions of the family law attorneys who testified in favor of Olear have a vested interest in doing so. The question should be asked how many parents and adult children of divorce testified – those impacted by the judge’s rulings. It is quite unfortunate that these voices and opinions are seldom solicited or heard.

What legislators heard (and responded to) were complaints about children being arbitrarily separated from their parents and parents forced to pay for supervised visitations to see them. Parents being jailed for not being able to pay outlandish GAL fees. Parents being jailed for not being able to pay outlandish GAL feesThis same scenario has become the operational norm in our family courts, not one only associated with a small number of “high-conflict cases.”

The majority of the family courts’ time is consumed by the growing number of 3,400 or so custody cases it hears. It is the underlying politics and misguided policies of the family court itself which created this crisis – and one which is harming parents, children and families.

The vote signaled that citizens are no longer tolerating the status quo and expecting far better of our legislature and judiciary. It reflects a historic shift in attitudes and approaches towards family law happening not just here in Connecticut, but nationally and internationally as well. Connecticut is characteristically late to the game.

Many states have already enacted sweeping changes in their family laws and made shared parenting a standard. Maine reformed its GAL system last summer, following states such as Maryland, which eliminated GAL immunity. The chief justice of New York State and a task force in Delaware both proposed opening their family courts in order to “eliminate the atmosphere of corruption.” The chief justice of Canada called the country’s family courts “beyond the point of simple repair” and a Royal Commission is examining ways to replace their system with “something else.”

Connecticut’s family courts are in a state of operational dysfunction solely due to a self-inflicted legal monstrosity it created and of epic proportions. We have the largest Practice Book in the country, as our judiciary has essentially been allowed to write self-serving legislation.

None of the people in the fast growing family court reform movement deny that custody cases can be difficult. This is not the issue. The issue is that in this state, we have allowed a very small group of family law attorneys and GALs to directly and adversely impact family court operations in a manner designed to personally enrich them at the expense of parents and families. This has created a situation where 85 percent of the cases before the court involve a pro se party, as no one can afford the agenda being promoted by these individuals. To be clear, this group does not represent mainstream legal thought in this state and many attorneys are increasingly speaking out about this.

Our state’s GALs are almost exclusively family law attorneys who enjoy complete immunity and been granted quasi-judicial authority – this is not common elsewhere in the country. Our GALs are not held to any standard of performance or excellence and they are not licensed or monitored. They are allowed to bill with impunity with the expected results. GALs in this state legally trump a parent’s right to be a parent as soon as they are assigned to case. These individuals are allowed to make life-altering decisions directly impacting children and families as judges routinely outsource their judicial authority to them – for the entire life of a case and child. This is misguided, unethical and simply wrong.

Too many of our judges operate with the misguided belief that parents are to blame and inherently flawed, invalid, and incapable of parenting solely because they have dared to approach the Court for help or have a dispute with the other parent. Instead of making effective rulings, even simple cases are allowed to drag on for months and years as children and families suffer and parents are literally bankrupted in process. Concerns for their clients expressed to the family court by well-meaning attorneys and professionals, fall of deaf ears as these people are shut out of the system.

Along with many others, I attended and watched the recent hearings of a task force assigned to study the costs of custody cases. Ms. Knox did not. This task force failed its legislative mandate as it was chaired by two “full-time GALs” who blocked every effort by other task force members to collect and analyze meaningful financial cost and operational metrics data related to custody cases. This may explain why many legislators have little faith in what the task force ultimately recommended.

In summary, the legal industry and judiciary need to recognize that the world has changed. As with many other movements, social media has brought together thousands of parents, progressive lawyers, former judges, concerned mental health professionals, business executives and legislators on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, uniting us in a common cause. A cause which cuts across all political lines, all social and economic classes, all genders and race classifications.

We have three branches of government because when one of these branches goes astray and operates in a manner which violates the Constitution and ignores basic civil and due process rights, the other two must step in to take correction action. Having no other recourse, citizens have properly turned to the legislature and the legislature is responding – which mirrors what has happened in many other states.

Parents who have suffered for years due to the problems in our family courts are the actual experts and our voices must be heard – not just those of the legal industry. This is the very best way to run a government and court system – for the people, of the people, and by the people.

Peter T. Szymonik is a portfolio manager at UnitedHealthcare, where he works as a liaison between business technology executives and the legal and compliance teams. He is a former member of the executive board at Cummings & Lockwood and has served as the state chair of the Council of Litigation Management. He is also the father of two young sons and has been working with state legislators on family court reform for many years.

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