Some couples who divorce do so in a collaborative and cost effective manner usually through an Alternative Dispute Resolution process such as mediation. If children are involved they are usually for the most part, able to agree on custody of the minor children and, co-parent effectively and cooperatively. In this case the court is usually involved at the end of the process as a formality to enter the final Divorce Decree. This option usually preserves the majority of the family assets that are split between the husband and the wife. Child support and alimony may or may not be awarded depending on the circumstances.
However, although the minority of cases, there are other divorces that unfortunately utilize the court system in a litigious fashion. Such cases are often filled with conflict between the parities, allegations of or substantiated abuse, addiction and/or mental health issues, a demand for something other than shared custody (50-50) of the minor children by one of the other parties and/or alimony. In addition to attorneys for each party there may be a Guardian Ad Litem that has been appointed by the court to represent to the court what she/he beleives is in the best interest of the children, if any are involved. These cases may involve years of litigation that intensifies the emotional and financial strain involved in the divorce process. The family assets are often significantly impacted or in some cases depleted by this litigious divorce process.
The National Parent's Organization recently sponsored a documentary movie entitled "Divorce Corp.". This movie provides specific examples of the gross ailments that many believe plague this area of our judicial system. The movie claims that Family Law in the United States is about a $50 billion dollar industry that is infested with bias, corruption, greed, the depletion of family assets and the destruction of the relationship many parents have with their children. Very concerning….indeed.
Behavioral Compass Group (BCG) has submitted written testimony on the issues under review to both Task Forces. In short, BCG supports: shared custody (50-50), except in the case of substantiated psychological/physical abuse, addiction, special needs of the child, etc.; Guardian Ad Litems (GALs) who possess graduate level mental health knowledge (non-attorney and attorney); the formation of a State Audit Unit to monitor GAL case involvement, accountability and fulfillment of their obligation to recommend what is in the best interest of the children; an understanding of any existing disorders that impact any of the children involved, taking into account the child's special needs due to such disorder; and a complete list of all GALs who have completed the State required GAL training along with his/her hourly fee should be available to the public/parties in a case, prior to a GAL being selected so that they can make an informed decision. It is my understanding that the Task Force will make recommendations to the Judicial Committee who will then decide whether they take any further action on issues/recommendations raised. Further, we recommend when possible (and we realize it isn't always so) individuals utilize Alternative Dispute Resolutions for the dissoluion of the marriage and avoid the costly litigation track.
Last week, I observed the public hearing held by the Alimony Task Force. I was disappointed to see that all members of the Task Force are attorneys, including a couple Family Law Judges. I believe there should be representation from the non-attorney segment of our population who is familiar with the Family Law arena and alimony awards. Such individuals would likely broaden the prospective being considered by the Task Force. Post public comment, I had the opportunity to observe the Task Force debate various relevant issues associated with alimony awards in the State of Connecticut. Some members were more vocal than others, one in particular was inquisitive and passionate which I was pleased to see. However, at one point during their discussion several Task Force members admitted that they have trouble "…putting the skirt on the man…" and feeling the same as they do for some women about granting alimony awards. One Task Force member explicitly stated, "I guess I am biased." A few other Task Force members appeared to agree. Although I appreciated the candid debate, I am concerned with the acknowledgement for at least some Task Force members, that a bias towards men in regard to alimony exists. In my opinion it begs the question of whether such existing bias may spill over into the area of the custody of minor children? I wonder what the Task Force member's views are on shared parenting (50-50)? Something to ponder....