My how far we have come in family law

When I went through the dissolution of a family about twenty-six years ago, it was a real disaster. My ex was an Assistant Attorney General (PA) and I was a family law practitioner. We fought like arch enemies, we were. It was incredible. Only a few years before we had promised, before God, to love one until death do us part. Now here we were using all the dirty tricks that we learned as lawyers with each other just to win what?

But what about the children?

Perhaps an even greater tragedy was that there was an innocent child involved. The boy was relegated to the status of a favorite painting. Not once did we give way to the best interests of the child. This continued for seven years. We subjected our son to a series of humiliations at a tender age of twenty-four months. Our only care was to hurt each other.

You would think

You would think that lawyers would dominate us. The reality was that we were a gold mine of lawyers. Imagine being billed at $ 200 an hour for two attorneys determined to destroy each other. No less than six attorneys enthusiastically jumped into this matter just to get a piece of the pie. Looking back, it was ridiculous. Each of us ended up with no less than $ 85,000 in attorney bills. So that? Life went on, our son became a man, and we wasted what could have been a significant contribution to his college costs.

Turning hands forward

Fast forward to the year 2000. There are now a number of programs dedicated to helping high conflict families. Yes, there are still families like bears only now we have some new tools.

One of those tools is the Court Appointed Special Advocates Program. According to the National CASA program they are; Volunteers appointed by judges to monitor and defend abused and neglected children, to ensure that they do not get lost in the overloaded system of social and legal services or languish in inappropriate groups or foster homes. Volunteers stay with each case until it is closed and the child is placed in a safe, permanent home.

While CASA is not necessarily a specific family law program, the value of a CASA volunteer in a high-conflict family, which gives little consideration to children, cannot be underestimated.

Another very interesting program is called Parent Coordination. According to the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, the Coordination of Parents does the following,

Parenting coordination is a child-centered alternative dispute resolution process in which a mental health or legal professional with training and experience in mediation helps high-conflict parents implement their parenting plan by facilitating resolution of their disputes in a timely manner, educating parents about children’s needs. , and with the prior approval of the parties and / or the court, make decisions within the scope of the court order or the appointment contract.

The overall goal of parenting coordination is to help parents with many conflicts implement their parenting plan, monitor compliance with plan details, resolve conflicts related to their children and the parenting plan in a timely manner, and protect and maintain healthy and meaningful relationships between parents and children. (AFCC, 2005)

Imagine, now the Court can appoint a trained professional, who often has legal and / or mental health training and education, to do what lawyers cannot and the courts cannot. This is to help the family focus on the child’s needs. These professionals can teach parents how to make better decisions regarding their children. They can help parents reduce destructive conflict that can be multigenerational and can have intergenerational implications. Perhaps the biggest advantage is that it reduces the financial burden on families that are often at their lowest ebb. Parent coordinators can help the family move forward when it is easy to get stuck in the cycle of scathing litigation.

Always a critic

Unsurprisingly, the Parent Coordination is not without its criticism. An article titled Parenting Coordination Problems: Pros and Cons. Parenting coordination is a bad idea, why: (The Liz Library, 2009), raises the most frequent objections. Many of the arguments in this article border on the absurd. Anyone who has experienced a family breakdown knows that these claims are unfounded.

However, as a lawyer, I understand the reaction of many bar associations. It’s not unlike the reaction of the National Association of Social Workers when states began licensing other types of mental health providers. They are simply not comfortable with other professionals offering viable alternatives often at a lower cost.

However, the question remains what is best for the family?

We also have supporters

One of the staunchest advocates of Parent Coordination is the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC). The AFCC is the main interdisciplinary and international association of professionals dedicated to the resolution of family conflicts. The members of AFCC are the main professionals, researchers, professors and legislators in the field of family courts. Members of AFCC include;

Judges, lawyers, mediators, court commissioners Court administrators

Psychologists, researchers, academics, psychiatrists, counselors, social workers

Custody evaluators, parenting coordinators, parent educators

Financial professionals

Together they write, Parenting Coordination is appropriate for high-conflict cases dealing with child-related issues, such as when (Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, 2011);

– there is a high rate of litigation, especially in relation to the implementation of a custody order or parenting plan;

– the mediation was unsuccessful or deemed inappropriate;

– parents need help to develop, modify or implement their parenting plan;

– parents have difficulties communicating information about the well-being of their children;

– parenting cannot agree on substantive issues relating to their child;

– there are complex problems related to children or the family that require intensive case management; Y

– Parents can pay for the parenting coordinator services or services can be provided at no cost.

Additionally, to ensure that Parent Coordination remains a viable program and to address some of the criticism of the Parent Coordination Process, the AFCC has proposed model guidelines for Parent Coordinators. In the preamble they write.

The purpose of these Parenting Coordination Guidelines (“Guidelines”) is to provide:
1. detailed practice guidelines for PC;
2. guidelines for PCs regarding their ethical obligations and conduct;
3. PC qualifications, including relevant education, training and experience;
4. assistance to jurisdictions that are implementing parenting coordination programs by providing practice guidelines that they may adopt; Y
5. assistance to jurisdictions, professional organizations, educational and professional institutions in the development and implementation of parental coordination programs.

In conclusion

In February 2013, a man entered the New Castle County Courthouse in Delaware. There he proceeded to murder two young women and wound two Delaware police officers. He was finally killed by the police that morning. It turns out that the gunman was the father-in-law of one of the murdered women. They were all on their way to a trial in the Family Court.

A few years earlier, in 2005, a Family Court judge was shot and injured in a Nevada courthouse while standing near an open window. It is alleged that the accused aggressor was a litigant before this judge.

Again in 2005, a judge was assassinated in an Atlanta court. Perhaps most notable were the comments of a Georgia attorney who said:

“You’re dealing with people who are unhappy with something and have sued someone or are potentially facing jail or are fighting for custody of children, the kinds of things that bring out raw emotions that can cause problems,” (emphasis added).


“I would be surprised if a judge handling criminal cases, or family law cases, or certain civil cases, would not have had anyone threaten,” says Judge Gayle Nachtigal, president of the American Association of Judges.

All that can be said is that if these cases are producing this kind of public violence against our judges and police, we have to acknowledge that there is something fundamentally wrong with the way we handle these matters.

These are not isolated and unusual incidents. Rather, this is a very real reality in the way the system is currently addressing the remodeling of our families and the consequences of it.

This should clearly tell us that the status quo is not working. What do we have to lose by trying new approaches? Especially new approaches designed expressly for the purpose of working with high conflict families.



Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (2005) Guidelines for Parent Coordination. Obtained from the APA website.

Association of Family and Conciliation Courts. (2011). Understanding the parent coordination process. Obtained from the website of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts.

Liz’s library. (2009). PARENTAL COORDINATION problems: pros and cons . Retrieved from Liz Library website

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