Saturday, December 16, 2006



Each state has its own particular laws, customs, precedent setting cases and local rules when it comes to divorce and child custody.. With this caution in mind, the following is an overall education with some general information on issues you may want to ponder when heading into the family court arena.

For many people their first experience with any court is when they experience family court. For many people the family court, divorce, and child custody experience can be devastating. Not only can you lose a good portion of your income, it is also the place where the parents learn when, where and how they will “be allowed” to have time with their children.

After watching numerous television shows featuring attorneys and the court system, many people have preconceived notions about fairness in family courts. The reality is, like any court today, the calendar is packed and relatively little time is devoted to each individual case. Therefore, justice and fairness almost always give way to expediency, which in family law means the orders will be based on biases, prejudices and "feelings," rather than fact, equity and fairness. As a result, both mothers and fathers are usually greatly discouraged and dismayed when they exit the family court system.

The first notion a person needs to understand is that family law is a game. Let’s take a look at just two games:

1. If you walk into your local convenience store and pick up a bag of chips and walk out without paying for them, it’s called “stealing.”

Action: Stealing
Results: Time in jail

2. If you are on first base in a baseball game and you run down to second base, this is also called “stealing” (assuming you are safe at second base).

Action: Stealing
Results: You’re a hero

In both of these games the “Action” is the same: “Stealing.”

3. Question: Why such different “Results” when the “Action” is the same?

4. Answer: Different game - Different sets of rules.

In the game of life, stealing is a crime which will land you in jail. In the game of baseball, stealing is advantages and will make you a hero.

Treating the “game” of family court with the same rules as the “game” of life (truth, justice, honesty, integrity, fairness and equality) would be like playing baseball with the same rules as the game of life (refusing to steal a base because it is against your principles to steal).

Just as it would not make sense to play the game of baseball by the rules in the game of life, it does not make sense to play the game of family law by the rules of the game of life.

You need to know the game you are playing, you need to know about family court.

Family court has also been referred to as being like a game of chess: You need to anticipate the other players move BEFORE they make it. Just like in chess, never, ever play defensively - you’ll be a guaranteed “loser” in family court if you start playing defensively.

Preparation is the most important key to playing the game of family court. Organizing and managing your divorce or child custody case must be your top priority. Do not expect or assume your attorney (if you have one) will be organized or particularly adept at case management. Remember, attorneys went to law school to become litigators to “win” for their clients. You need to stay on top of all issues in your case. You must know and understand your case inside and out.

Family court is a multi-billion dollar business and a big part of the “game” is money. Find this hard to believe? Visit your nearest family court. You will discover the judge sits on the bench for about six (6) hours a day, with as few as 20, to as many as 45 or more cases to hear each day. This translates into about 15 minutes per case.

This literally means your financial future (support) and the amount of time you are allowed to be with your children (custody and visitation) may be decided in 15 minutes or less. If anyone really cared about you, your ex or your children, could they make significant determinations about your life in 15 minutes or less? Again, if you find this notion hard to believe, simply visit your nearest family court, watch a divorce or child custody hearing and see what happens.

While it is true more time is allowed for final “trials;” in most states, the only thing “final” about the final trial is that your status is changed from being married to being single, and your property has been divided. Almost all other issues are open for later interpretations, modifications and future court hearings.

Generally, the issues of custody, visitation and child support are almost always open for future modifications - and those are the hearings which last 15 minutes or less. Again, if someone really cared about you and your reorganizing family, could they make major decisions about your life in as little as 15 minutes?

If money were not the bottom line in family court, it would have been taken out of the adversarial system long ago. Comparatively, there is little money in education, information, mediation, negotiations and collaboration. As in every other area of life, when money becomes more important than people, then truth, justice, honesty, fairness, equality and freedom are sacrificed. Such is the case in family court.

In family court, the family unit, the restructuring of the family, and the needs of individual family members are all sacrificed on the alter of making money. Greed is a great motivator.

Currently, we are stuck with family court being under the umbrella of the adversarial system. Since this is your life, your relationship with your children, and your financial future being decided, you need to retain the role of decision-maker in your case at all times. Although you may retain an attorney or have someone whom you trust as coach, your primary job is to make decisions about your life.


Only you, the other parent and your children will have to live with the final results from family court.
Either way the attorneys and all court related personnel will get paid.

By: Marvin Chapman

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