Opinion: The Failure that Is Family Court

Family court
Family in front of a judge's gavel | Image by New Africa

October was Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and November was Family Court Awareness Month.

This is not the only information that you can find about Family Court Awareness, because if you go on Twitter, or on Facebook you will see this hashtag everywhere.

We should not need a particular month to remind us that domestic violence happens every single day. It will soon be 2023, and has our government done enough? Many victims of domestic abuse will tell you the answer to that question is a resounding, “No!” They are beyond angry and feel that Family Court judges are not qualified to help victims of abuse. First and foremost, they do not completely understand what domestic violence is. They think if you cannot see visible marks then you have not been abused. This is not the truth. Domestic violence is not only physical or sexual abuse. Domestic abuse is verbal, mental, coercive control and it is financial abuse. It is post-separation abuse, and gaslighting. The most searched word of 2022 was: “Gaslighting” — mind manipulating, grossly misleading, downright deceitful — is Merriam-Webster’s word of the year.

This word is synonymous with domestic violence. The perpetrator wants the victim to think that they are going crazy, to believe that they are overreacting, and they are not.

In some countries such as “Scotland they have passed legislation recognizing coercive control as a crime.” Ontario, Canada is currently working to do the same.

They have also passed Keira’s Law, which is similar to Kayden’s Law, or Piqui’s Law that we have here in America.

However, some people do not like how either of these laws are written and want a combination of the two laws to enforce more changes. Then there is also the fact that only a few states have enabled these laws, but the bigger question is why haven’t all states done so yet? What do your state Senators have to say about this? Have you asked them? The children belong to the safe parent, and not to the domestic violence abuser. Imagine if someone abused you and you had children. Maybe the children witnessed this abuse, and maybe not, but it would hurt them either way. For example, if there is financial abuse, and again this is domestic violence, this is obviously harming the children. Abusers know what they are doing, so why wouldn’t a Family Court judge understand this? Then there is this association that for whatever reason thought it was a good idea to give this judge an award.

Just so you are aware this is the same judge that they are talking about in this article.

Now imagine that you are her mother, or a relative, a teacher, or someone in her community who knew her. You truly have to wonder what were they thinking? It doesn’t matter if you knew Kayden or her mom, because everyone should understand something like this, and nobody should be praised for failure to help her.

Abusers think only one side. Their goal is to harm the victim, but if you are not financially providing for the victim, the safe parent, or doing something to stop payments, then you are also not providing for the child. The safe parent will do without in order to help their children. A woman recently talked about how the Court ordered her her ex-husband to pay for her teenage son’s groceries. He would have them delivered to her house, and it was never enough even for them, so why would she take food away from them? What decent parent would? This obviously meant that she was barely eating. She had applied for food benefits but was still waiting to see if she could get them. She said, “I haven’t eaten much of anything in two days, and I’m feeling weak, and sick to my stomach.” Of course she is. This is not okay, and if the Family Court judges do not understand this, then they should recuse themselves, because unfortunately they cannot be punished. We must also end this. No more immunity for judges who do things like this, or for those who put children at great risk by allowing unsupervised visits with a domestic violence abuser. Then there is something like this.

It’s beyond heartbreaking to read this, and to think that a Family Court judge did this, and for what reason? In no way was this FC judge not harming these children by doing this to their mother. Where was the fairness that these judges profess to portray? Where is the 50/50 rule that the majority of these states have, because when the judges fail to do this too they do not get punished? If you file a complaint it gets dismissed by the Judiciary Committee. I am not exactly sure what this committee does, because you would very likely have to have videotaped proof before they would act. That’s another thing that should be questioned about Family Court is why don’t they videotape the interactions with the judges? They should. You are allowed to get copies of your transcript, but this is simply not good enough. Some victims of abuse have resorted to videotaping courtroom sessions just so the public can see how horrible the judges are to the victims.  Victims, or anyone else, shouldn’t have to do this. It should be a given that you can request your videotape, along with your transcript to see if they match up. One woman talked about how the stenographer had literally written her transcript like it was a fictional novel. She was going on describing how she looked nervous, and was stumbling her words. Of course she was nervous, and it was because she was standing in the courtroom near her abuser with no viable protection. We need cameras in the courtrooms. If you’re lucky enough like California, you have someone like this.

Unfortunately, in Texas we do not have a Susan, or at least not one that I am aware of, who is willing to report and investigate Family Court corruption. Why not? Where are the media, especially when it comes to something as important as domestic violence? They do not want to even write about what is happening. We need more media, and not only news publications, but TV news stations to report about this. The goal should be to stop the deaths. Yet each day we hear about another victim and sadly sometimes children dying at the hands of their abuser. Then there’s this.

“A Texas attorney fired three shots at his ex-girlfriend inside an Austin bar before customers subdued him. He was released two days later on $40,000 bond set by a municipal judge. This was his second charge of domestic violence in five years.”

After he got out on bond “the Texas suspect – who seems to have had unfettered access to guns regardless of the crimes he committed against women – killed himself while out on bond.”

This is where we talk about weapons and domestic violence abusers. Regardless of how you feel about your rights, if you have abused another person, you should have no access to weapons. What this Texas judge has done is wrong, and this will cause more deaths. Why would anyone intentionally put a deadly weapon in the hands of someone who has been proven to be an abuser?

So where do we go from here? How can you help if you are reading this article? Just like anything else, write to your Senators. Write to the Governor, and the Attorney General, and also to the Lieutenant Attorney General. Many victims of abuse have rallied together to make these things known, but they need the support of non-victims. They not only need your empathy, but they want you to educate yourselves about these things. Sadly, all too often we read about or see on television a child or children being killed by an abuser. Prior to this happening, the safe parent has begged for help from the police and their district attorney, but nothing is done, because if it was these children would not be anywhere near an abuser unless it was a supervised visit. Far too many district attorneys do not fight for the victims, and often abusers are bonded out, so they can go right back to abusing the person. The abuser’s sentences are far too lenient. No judge should be ordering time served or a reduced sentence. What about the victim’s time served? The years of abuse, and where were the judges when they begged for help? What about the children’s time served, because again, if you are abusing a parent, then you are abusing the child too? Family Court judges are not seeing the bigger picture when it comes to abuse of any kind.

Then there are situations like this, and if you think this is an isolated incident you would be wrong, because this is happening in courtrooms all over the United States.

Our Department of Justice is not taking these complaints seriously, and far too often when they are dismissed, you end up with this, a judge who way oversteps his power. Instead of doing things like this, they should want to help, especially if you are a victim of abuse. It should not require “A 2018 investigation in the law journal the Legal Intelligencer highlighted accusations of her violating parental rights, and people came forward to file complaints, prompting requests for a formal review by the Judicial Conduct Board.”

For a complaint to be taken seriously, thousands of complaints are dismissed and they should all be investigated. Judges are supposed to be helping people and not abusing them like this. It had “about 700 complaints filed against Pennsylvania judges in 2020. Most complaints were dismissed after a state investigatory board determined the complaint unfounded.”

There was nothing unfounded in any of this. Even one complaint is one too many.

Police also fail to protect victims of abuse by not filing reports, or by not following what the protective order says or even a restraining order too. Whenever there is domestic violence, victims need a protective order, because they are so much better than a restraining order. Most victims do not know this, but the police should, and the district attorneys definitely do, but often they do, or say nothing to help either. Yes, it is a systematic failure from the very start. You are being abused, so of course you would ask the police for help. Maybe you call 9-1-1 and what happens next? Nothing. Yes, I said nothing. Can you imagine if this was you? How would you feel or react to not being helped by the police or by the police chief? If someone took your purse, would the police help you? In truth, you would probably get more help concerning this than you would if it was a domestic violence situation. Now, I am obviously not saying that all police officers are this way, but sadly the majority are. There is no such thing as mutual abuse, and anyone who says that there is does not know what they are talking about.

Why wouldn’t a Family Court judge know this, because they should? Yes, definitely a lack of education, but also the state’s unwillingness to properly train and then enforce these things. Yes enforce. Texas has greatly failed on this as well. The question is why, because they have the federal funds to do this, and this is because of the Violence Against Women Act. No victim of abuse disagrees with the VAWA either, because it is not clear enough and this does not nearly cover all that is wrong with the judicial system when it comes to domestic violence.

For example, in a previous article I wrote, I talked about how Texas is not providing rapid rehousing for victims of abuse. Yet, it says this is available, and nobody in Texas seems to know where these funds went. Why not, and why isn’t the federal government investigating these things, too?

Victims of abuse deserve as much help as anyone else, from the police all the way to the Department of Justice. We should all know the statistics by now, but for those of you who need a refresher, and perhaps this includes a Family Court judge, domestic violence happens to “20 people per minute.”

Think about this. That means that very likely that person you just walked past could be a victim of domestic violence.

While the majority of domestic abuse happens to women, this does happen to men too, and when it does happen, men are less likely to come forward out of shame. Nobody, I don’t care who you are, should never be ashamed of what another person has done to you. If you are a parent, you must put your children first, but you cannot do this until you yourself are given the proper help that is needed. Again, this should be common sense, but instead the judges turn a blind eye to this. They want to disbelieve the victims even when they have proof. As a society, we can and should do more to help victims of abuse, and no, I don’t just mean donating to a domestic violence shelter or to a charity that helps. I mean for you to get actively involved. Write to your Senators about these things. Send them this article. Send them information about statistics. Ask them why we still allow Family Court judges to even hear cases concerning abuse. If someone has been abused, why aren’t these cases being moved to a Criminal Court? They should be, but instead the abuse continues, and this is what is meant by Post Separation Abuse. People think that means immediately right after the victims have left. Yes, but it also can mean years of dealing with this, because once again the Family Court judges have greatly failed to properly address this the first time. Some FC judges will not even enforce their own orders. Obviously, if they are not willing to do this then the domestic violence is continuing on.

I have heard people saying that they are in Court six, ten, and one woman said fifteen years later. You are probably asking how, but it happens. Another woman said… “I had four advocates and five lawyers during my case. No loyalty, no continuity, the week before the court date I had none of the original legal team. One dumped me for a better case, four left me for other jobs, maternity leave, never returned.”

Family Court attorneys should be regulated on how much money can be accepted, and attorneys should be required to complete their cases. Unfortunately, there are very few, yes even advocates, who truly care about what you are dealing with. Most are afraid of the judges, afraid to speak up, to speak the truth. It is not only because of the judge’s failure to help, but also because the abuser suffers little to no consequences for their actions. This is giving them the green light to continue as always. Again, this is why anything that involves domestic violence belongs in a Criminal Court. These judges are trained much better to handle things like this, and when judges make the wrong decision to dismiss these very serious things, then they must be punished. No more immunity for corrupt judges. No more immunity for district attorneys either, or for anyone else who partakes in something like this. If multiple people have complained and you do not act, then you are part of the problem. If abusers can go to jail, then so should these people too.

In Texas, if you have not read about this yet, you should, and it is not only this, but this too, and something else that I have also previously written about.

It is not only him who is involved, because if you read this or other articles, there are many more names listed there. These are some of the same people who are ignoring domestic violence victims in Texas. Why don’t we as a society question this? Why wouldn’t you want to help a victim of abuse? I have said this before, it should not have to be happening to you to help out. Recently this happened.

Then you further learn that a “psychologist said he was a narcissistic, and he should not be hired.” He was obviously hired anyway. Why wouldn’t anyone take the advice of a highly trained professional telling you there are some serious red flags about a particular person? Narcissism can be the sign of an abuser.

“A new study of individuals with narcissistic relatives reveals multiple themes, such as physical or emotional abuse and the imposition of troubling financial behaviors.”

Requiring a psychological evaluation is not only the smart thing to do not only for police officers, but also for judges, district attorneys, attorney generals, senators, and so on, because these people determine whether domestic violence victims are going to be able to get the help they desperately need. Why would anyone side with an abuser? Unless you don’t understand what they are doing, or perhaps you are an abuser yourself. We must demand much more than this from our leaders, from our government officials. Yes, this is about who you vote for, but it is also definitely about what you do to hold them accountable after they are there. We must stop enabling abuse, and abusers, and people who are in a position to help but instead they decide to do nothing. “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” We must remove these people from positions of power, but one person cannot do this on their own, so that is why it is important for you to help. Please stop saying this does not involve me, because one day it could, and like I have written, you likely know someone who is a victim of abuse, so why wouldn’t you want to help them? We should all want to do what is right and end the suffering of the people who do not deserve this.

Lilli is a Mom, Writer, Photographer, and an Advocate for victims of domestic violence, and animal rights.

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  1. Ronald Reason

    Great job. This should convince anyone to look-up their judicial candidates before walking into the voting booth. Quality matters.

  2. Bill

    This article reads like it was written by someone who took a fistful of diet pills and washed them down with a Red Bull. Post better content D.E.

  3. Wrath

    Unfortunately in Dallas County the only qualifications for a judge is to have a “D” behind their name.

    • Brandi

      #cherokeecountycourtatlawhaslessrequirement#wakeupcherokeecoutycourtwatchers #familycourtwatchers

  4. Roy Getting

    Good article however you missed a huge portion of the population. When a noncustodial parent falls behind in child support there is an entire industry to collect it. If the noncustodial parent is unable to see the children, he’s on his own. This parental alienation is domestic violence with no support. Then there is the Dallas County judge who gave the custodial mom the go ahead to castrate their 10 year old boy over the objections of the father. Now there is domestic violence.

  5. Hue

    Why when you mention Family Court there is never a mention about the thousands of Dad’s forced to pay ransoms to be apart of their children’s lives. Pay or go to jail, lose drivers license< pass port, wages garnished IRS penalties. When all the terms are finally met these dads are taken back to court for more. I was there and there threatened constantly of loosing access to my son. Thousands of men are committing suicide rather than forfeiting freedom or the rights of a father. The system is broken Family court is not about the best interest of the child. It’s about money court fees, State fees for overseeing that dad pays.
    Answer this: if I have my child 14days a month at my house with my food, clothes I provide, all the things child support should pay for., He has all the things needed and wanted in his room. I provide for him those 15 sometimes 17-18 days and sometimes less days and still have to pay Child support to his mother for the time the child is with her. What is she paying for. All the blogs news stories about the victims Mom and child…. The truth is more men are dying by their own because Family Court says so. And children are being hurt because The Family court says so.


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