Encouraging Dialogue About "No Blame" Family Court Procedures
"I feel so inspired," said Margaret, an attorney, as soon as I picked up the phone.
"You do?," I asked, thinking she was about to tell me a story about her daughter. Instead, she proceeded to tell me about a meeting she had with a family court judge. I know, I know...family court brings up images of exhaustion rather than inspiration for me too...but stay with me, OK?
"He stands by the purpose of Family Court - to unite families. He believes that it does not make sense to expect co-parenting to occur harmoniously following a tense adversarial situation."
"So how does he handle it?," I asked.
"After a conversation with the lawyers, all lawyers stipulate on the record that they consent to having only the child's attorney and the judge question the parent - just direct, no cross. That and the probation report. Just the best interests of the child, no blame." she said.
"And they go for it?," I asked.
"There are lawyers that know this judge, and trust him and his reputation, and go along with it. Others, however, opt not to participate. I sense some are reluctant to give up the adversarial model."
"So what is the judge's perspective?", I asked.
"Well that the proceedings are not about assessing blame to any parent, it is about taking responsibility for the best interests of the child, and discerning what needs to be done. Blame, in his opinion, interferes with the ability of parents to communicate effectively about decisions concerning their child's welfare. Even if one parent has custody, there are still shared visiting, educational, religious, medical issues, among many, to settle on."
"Sounds interesting," I admitted.
"You should see this courtroom," she went on. "The colors, the inspirational posters, the toys for the kids...this is an inviting atmosphere, a place to get help. Isn't the court supposed to be helping?"
"Why do I hear a "but" in there somewhere?", I asked.
"Because I sense he may be considering leaving family court, and we need judges like him!", she said.
After I hung up, I felt so many emotions, but more than anything a hunger to know more about this person, about his process and procedures, and also from my colleagues out there - what do you think about this? What do you agree with, what are your concerns? Please remember I do not have the full story here...just what I wrote...but thought this could be a great starting point for debate and sharing. Also, are you aware of anything else like this? And if you support this what are your thoughts on how we can best support judges who think outside the box?