Family Law Attorney Calls for Court Reform in the U.S.

From Marketwire:


Los Angeles Attorney Mark Baer Calls U.S. Family Law System “Barbaric”

Compared to Australia, England & Wales

April 6, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CA  Marketwire

The United States’ Family Law system is barbaric, archaic and unenlightened, says Family Law Attorney Mark Baer, when compared to Australia, England and Wales’ legal systems. His comments reflect the changing attitudes in the practice of family law in Great Britain and Australia where divorcing couples must undergo mediation for child custody and/or financial issues to sort out most disputes before they can use the courts.

Meanwhile, in California, where Mr. Baer practices family law, the legislature recently made major changes that will increase litigation time and expenses while causing the divorce process to be more adversarial. 
“It’s time for our government to affect a reform in the family law system to shift the emphasis from litigation, as the dominant practice, to mediation and collaborative divorce,” states Mr. Baer.
“Litigation is not only more expensive but it is also far more damaging to the family system which still has to maintain contact and function, to some extent, when there are children involved.”
Effective April 6, 2011, the British government will require divorcing couples in England and Wales to undergo mediation [for child custody and/or financial issues] to sort out most disputes before they are allowed to use the courts. In doing so, they are following Australia’s example where, in 1996, the Australian government took the lead in implementing the Family Law Act 1975 as its primary dispute resolution (PDR).
It recognized that litigation is usually a slow, expensive and adversarial process, and that in family law matters, this behavior may make it difficult for the child to maintain an ongoing relationship with both parents and for parents to maintain their ongoing responsibilities. 
Since then, the law has evolved to require family dispute resolution (FDR) where all parties involved in parenting, financial issues or both, must make a genuine effort to resolve the dispute through an accredited FDR practitioner before starting a case. Failure to do so can result in serious consequences including costs penalties for non-compliance.
Mr. Baer points out that while many U.S. states have a “mandatory divorce mediation” requirement, it is generally limited to child custody and visitation matters. He further contends that this practice is not true mediation.
This is particularly true in California where mediation is required before a court will hear a child custody or visitation matter. In California, a variance in the law allows each county to enforce the mandatory mediation requirement in its own, unique way.
However, two states that he says do demonstrate successful Family Law systems are North Carolina and Utah.
“North Carolina is the first state to have a comprehensive domestic relations arbitration act, a collaborative divorce statute and mandatory medication (sic) rules,” Baer notes. “The Utah legislature passed a mandatory divorce mediation statute effective May 2005, and results have proven very positive in reducing court caseloads, fees for divorce and stress levels of litigants and attorneys.
“It’s fascinating that when other countries are plagued with the same problems in their family law systems, they embrace mediation, PDR and FDR for consensual dispute resolution,” says Baer, “which resolve most or all problems with litigation and courts in family law situations. Yet in the U.S., litigation and courts are the still the first choice for resolving family law disputes over alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation and collaborative divorce.”
For the U.S. legal system to benefit the public, not the attorneys, Baer believes the government needs to step in to completely overhaul the court system making it more family-friendly and less costly to divorcing parties.
Mark B. Baer has practiced law in Los Angeles for nearly twenty years with an office in Pasadena, CA. 

9 thoughts on “Family Law Attorney Calls for Court Reform in the U.S.

  1. Dear Just Another Mother: What state are you in? (My heart breaks for you. You described what goes on, so well. Justice delayed is justice denied. My hope is that your daughter comes back to God one day. I pray He clings to her, and never lets her go. I do the same for my children, and for all the children with monster bio-dads.)

  2. I agree with TechnoEvidence and Wallace Francis, who both mention victims of domestic violence. (Wallace Francis calls for identifying “high conflict personalities,” aka abusers, as a first step in the divorce process.)

    Collaboration and mediation work with 2 normal people, with normal abilities to cooperate and empathize. It does not work if one of the parties is an abuser/ malignant narcissist / sociopath / psychopath.

    Unfortunately, most family law judges today are duped by these charismatic Dr. Jekylls / Mr. Hydes (including the female ones), who know there’s no accountability for perjury in family law courts, (one of the markers of an abuser is his or her ability to lie with no remorse). This, in turn, causes a system which is not in pursuit of truth or justice.

  3. Family court has ruined my daughter’s life and mine. I am a mother who has been fighting in family court after a father, who was not on the birth certificate, threatened to cut the baby out of my stomach and murder us all and proceeded to need this and that to be responsible while stalking harassing and never caring about the best interest of the child.

    I had 3 years orders of protection due to domestic violence and was continually threatened to never seek child support -which I didn’t – and raised her on my own for over a decade. She was an honor roll student and well rounded child who was working toward her black belt in karate. The father was drugging, gambling and stealing. With 9 felonies he filed for all his rights from a prison cell after I received a letter after years of no contact saying we would be together wholly and completely as he had prayed(again) for years and I said no just leave us alone. “You have never brought anything to our lives except drama, trauma and upset.”

    I didn’t even know the horror of family court. (DRAMA TRAUMA UPSET) He managed to get a fraudulent letter written by a licensed psychologist, senior pastor of a home church to vouch for him and offer to testify as an expert witness upon his release! I went to my knees screaming. This man was a con as well as the father! The father had the complete backing of prison re-entry funding and support of faith based “fathers rights” and “fathers and families” etc etc etc. These supposed Christians waged a war against a law abiding mother (me), business owner of 20 yrs (me), homeowner of 17 yrs (me), with excellent credit and not so much as a traffic ticket (me).

    I have since lost the foundation of my business, our lives have been blown apart. The child’s karate became forced counseling appointments and forced reunification with a man who she didn’t know nor did she have experience with criminals or abuse before. Her life and my life were changed forever and there’s no support for us after the carnage except for the blood money child support I fought to obtain since we went there. My credit has been destroyed and I fought with everything I had to protect my daughter from the revenge (Did I mention documented mental illness of the father?). The psychologist/pastor lost his psychology license due to my case and closed his home (tax free scam) church and I am barely able to keep our home and hope to make it through the holidays again as this started in 2009.

    I was ordered into counseling and accused of alienation while it went ignored that the father showed a picture of his naked butt in his first meeting with his child on his camera! It wasn’t even told to me but to the father’s own aunt by the child upon her release from the first visit. The child’s fears and the courts lack of concern about affects on a child, set the stage for blaming me for the child’s own feelings. She was terrified at the onset as she had never even been to a doctor’s office without her mom with her.

    The courts don’t consider the utter destruction they do to the lives of people and the time it takes them to destroy us. The lies (many many perjured affidavits by the father, no matter, it’s just a law) the father told – which a simple Google search would have proven. My good standing meant nothing to these animals. I have never in my life lost total faith in our society and believed with all my heart the truth would prevail. NOT IN FAMILY COURT! Not in LAW!

    They stole the innocence of a little girl while tearing her mother’s and her world apart before her eyes. She met abusive professionals (adults) for the first time in her life and was called evil and demon child and told he saved her from the abortion I wanted. The bills piled up and I fought and fought. I left no stone unturned and for over a year and a half the child was forced to go to this reunification therapist’s office who IS KNOWN for her bias and abuse. “hired gun” I believe they called her.

    The child ran away whenever she was not deadbolt-locked in the office. She was found hiding in a tree 2 stories from the ground where she would go in the office complex and she named it Wolly. She ran into an office with a dog and a woman crying begging for help and it was an adult trauma counselor who through her back to the wolves. She ran crying begging for help any time the father spoke badly of me or the people she loved which included his own family who didn’t side with him.

    Well I was taken in the stairwell 8 times the day I finally was to get an evidentiary hearing over 2 years later and offered sanctions for interfering with the process – even though the court-ordered counselors for me and my child denied any alienation by me. The judge decided I was guilty of something in his chambers so I agreed to sanctions to get the abusive reunification woman out of our lives in hopes of getting my daughter some much needed help with a trauma specialist who also did reunification because we were now dealing with suicidal thoughts and self harming.

    I was ordered to share cost with the father to be reunified. Stairwells will never be the same for me. Life will never be the same. Lucky for me I played Russian Roullette with the court roster and won after picking a referred person for the next round of reunification. She ended up seeing through all of it over time. We didn’t have much left, the damage was done.

    I still have my daughter and the father has a new order of protection now against him from a grown man who fears the “crazy disgruntled customer” who threatened bodily harm and waged a campaign to destroy this man’s business and livelihood – because that’s what this man who’s been made so powerful through family courts does. That’s kept him busy up to 10/31/12.

    I see the wreckage of so many wonderful people, women, children and men in the system. Only barbarians who love money could do this job and harm lives the way they do. We as a society have made a mockery of our children telling the truth, no bullying campaigns and Do the Right Thing type of living B.S..

    I watched my daughter become suicidal, self harm and I helped her through all of it. The kids write on little quotes: “One of the worst of 3 things is to see your mother cry.” I’d like to thank family courts for showing my daughter what a once successful woman looks like when the family court gets through with her at the demand of a multi-feloned criminal coming out of prison because of DNA.

    Richard Ramirez had more mercy. Sorry, it’s just a fact. It wasn’t much different than I imagine a hostage terrorism situation to be.

    Have you ever heard the primal cry of a mother? My friends have! I watched grown men cry while my daughter described what was happening to her. It was the neighbor, school teacher and her friend’s fathers! Many wanted to help but it’s all locked up neat and tidy in family court so nobody who knows the truth can speak it. Shame on us. This cannot have any good outcome.

    I see no sense of urgency for change from legislators or government but what I have seen is massive amounts of money going to the wrong hands to keep this sickness going.

    Do you realize my child really only knew one parent and had the parent who really cared for her? I am sure this has damaged my health. How is she supposed to understand all that I taught her WAS WRONG? She no longer believes in law, (was a police officer for Halloween the year before) no longer believes in God as I prayed on her head every night from the day she was born and the father used God as a weapon in these meetings (the child was an angel for Halloween during reunification and the father and hired gun laughed at the child when she told them).

    This child applied and was approved and helped the special needs children in 5th grade but she quit after “reunification” started because “Mama, I just can’t deal with other people’s problems anymore”.

    The courts are creating destruction in children’s lives. Our case is one example of the horrors of the court. There was no sensible reason for this. NONE!

    There is so much more to my case. That which I have written I can prove with hard evidence. During the investigation of the former psychologist/pastor the assistant state attorney found me to be credible. I was to be the main witness for the state. Former Psychologist decided to relinquish his license but it is considered REVOKED.

    I hope you get something from my rant. It’s been a while for me.

  4. The California “Mediation” system is a joke. It goes like this. Your and her lawyers go into secret meetings for an hour with another lawyer. Her lawyer refuses to negotiate, trying to wear you out financially because she is receiving full alimony and child support pendente lite. That means you are forced to survive on 20% of your income while she gets 80% with no accountability. The courts refuse to hear your case as her lawyer drags out the “mediation” and you are quickly bankrupted or jailed for non payment. See, in family court, the provider is found guilty before the trial even starts and the female spouse is never held accountable for the actions of her attorney, so this is a no risk proposition for the ex-wife, she simply drags out the mediation as long as possible.

  5. The big issue we are grappling with today is whether we Americans can return to self-determination. How much government should be in our personal lives?

    One very personal area of life is family life. Can we determine the quality of our marriages and our divorces without judges and courts making a further mess of the mess we have made?

    Are judges, courts and government the best and most constructive way to help us our of our personal mess? Many divorcing couples who have relied on what they thought was a fair system have seen just how unfair the system is with all its human prejudices, weaknesses and foibles.

    We thought we were relying on the law….but we now know, there is no family law, just prejudicial “judge” discretion law.

    The family law system in California is so broken, it is beyond repair. It is internally imploding and being dismantled with all the state budget cuts. Now is the time to seize the opportunity to tell California legislators… We don’t need your incompetent courts. Close down family law courts. Save the taxpayer from paying judges to do terrible unjust jobs on behalf of the state.

    But let well trained mediators have the preference they deserve to facilitate collaboration, win/win for husbands and wives and children, where couples have no alternative but to create their own divorce with one mediator they both hire to help them create their own plan for a reconstruction of their family life in a new way. Couples with children have to reformat how they will be a family. The goal is for the divorce to work that gives time, distance and a constructive living arrangement for all members of the family to heal the hurts and wounds of brokenness.

    Let there be no court to run to have a court fight. Courts foster fights and don’t resolve brokenness or hurt but further it. That was the intent of no fault divorce. The problem is there is still a means to fight…i.e. family law court.

    For couples that have no children…there is only property to divide. There is no need for fights, just for co-operation.

    The criminal law courts are the appropriate places for physical abuse. An abuser should be reported to the sheriff and prosecuted by the state. If a husband or wife knows, they will be subject to criminal law…that will make them think twice about violence.

    The mediator may recommend the child or children to Child Protective Services if either parent is involve in mental abuse of the other or the children.

  6. My daughter is now 17 years old. I am a good parent, a decent human being, and I love my daughter very dearly. I had primary custody. I trusted that my former husband would keep his word about financing our home and never taking my child away from me. I was a fool. I’ve seen my daughter once, for two hours, in the past 19 months. This is the result of parental alienation, which was completely ignored by the one person – a judge – most responsible for making sure that my daughter had two parents. The judge simply didn’t like me. Even the evaluator that this judge ordered saw the alienation taking place. His ruling after the costly evaluation report? The evaluation wasn’t necessary. Why haven’t I seen my daughter on my weekends over the past two years? According to my former husband, my daughter simply doesn’t want to see me. According to the Judge that separated us, there’s nothing he can do to enforce my rights. My child does have two parents now – my former husband and the girlfriend who got pregnant and forced our divorce. According to the attorney the judge ordered to represent my daughter, when I overpaid on my court-ordered fees one month, and cut back the next, he had the right to attach my wages. This system has nothing whatever to do with the best interests of any child. The only remedy? A complete change of custody in my case. And California family law reform for everyone else. Or maybe, a system where the judges are actually required to obey the laws. Time might help my daughter, maybe me. But then, time isn’t on anyone’s side. So let’s make sure this doesn’t happen to other children, or to other parents.

  7. Family courts need to quickly identify high-conflict personalities and instantly fast-track them into a court designed to ferret out gamesmanship and come to a quick resolution, rather than sending these people into mediation where they can be attacked in secret.

    Requiring mediation is a great thing when there is a balance of power, but when a lone pro per, often female is sent into the hallway to “mediate” and ends up getting threatened and intimidated by the other party and his attorney, with no witnesses, how can this be a good thing?

    Lawyers are good at determining facts based upon available evidence, and family courts use neither cross-examination nor evidence effectively until it is far too late in the game.

    I recall watching a judge in Marin county on a restraining order case instantly force the litigants to present their case, undergo cross, etc. and it was the most effective, and efficient way I could think of. No time to formulate a story, etc.

  8. As long as mediation and collaborative legal processes are not foisted upon victims of domestic violence, then that is an appropriate way to go. However, any system that requires a victim of domestic violence to “negotiate” with the person that is causing them physical, emotional and spiritual harm is what is TRULY barbaric. The cases that have been sent to me since I published my technological guide for legal professionals have been absolutely shocking. I keep the movie scene in my head from “Sophie’s Choice” were Sophie is forced to choose between the lives of two children… and remember that I read recently “Everything that happened under the auspices of the Nazi Regime was legal at the time it was perpetrated.” We can not assume that because our laws exist, or because they have names that sound conciliatory that they actually are. We must take the steps to make sure that the public persona and private persona of perpetrators are properly presented in our courts.

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