FAMILY COURT REFORM
Each year, 58,500 children who seek protection from abuse through the U.S. family courts are ordered into the custody of a violent or sexually abusive parent.
A mother risks losing custody when she fights to protect her child from the child's abusive father. These cases then get turned against her. Research published in 1999 in the Journal of Child Sexual Abuse found that when a father wants custody he wins it 70 percent of the time. When a parent is accused of child abuse by the protective parent the abuser gains full or partial custody 90 percent of the time. And where there is domestic violence, the court tends to overlook the fact that these abuses were perpetrated by the same man.
This abuse of the child becomes part of the overall abuse scenario, complicating and magnifying the pain as the abuser gains control of the child while losing control of the mother in the divorce. The people who are supposed to be protecting these children (judges, custody evaluators, court appointed specialists, social workers) are failing miserably.
Enact a safe harbor provision to protect parents speaking up for their children. A higher standard will be established for gag orders and sealing the court that aligns with the first amendment rights.
Mandate that child safety is the priority of custody and parenting adjudications BELIEVE the children first and foremost. Resolve safety risk and claims of (DV) family violence or abuse before assessing any other “Best Interest” factors. Objective overwhelming evidence must prove what they are saying is inaccurate or false if that is the accusation. Follow-up outreaches by children will be believed and investigated even if previous claims were believed to be false. Specific criteria that must be identified and training developed to identify (or show false claims of) coaching.
All evidence can and should be submitted in these family court cases.
Transparency and accountability measures will be created and managed by an impartial diverse committee or council of interested parties to assure all social workers, child therapists, PRE’s, judges, advocates, and attorneys can be evaluated fairly and objectively. Mandatory reporting of case data to an advisory committee that can track judges and related parties records on how they are dealing with these cases to identify problems (and successes!). Aggregate data and reports will be available to the public.
Training requirement for all social workers, child therapists, PRE’s, judges, advocates, and attorneys who preside over family court cases on domestic violence, coercive control, child abuse and sexual abuse. Training completions and updates will be recorded and publicly available.