Where situations arise when you have the profit interests of courts and lawyers intersecting the vulnerabilities of parents and children by means of hearings, trials and motion practice it leads to cycles of abuse — and often times well directed and rehearsed performances.
At various junctures, repeated patterns and actions often transpire between various players of the court in divorce and custody ordeals that happen like clockwork — but often go unnoticed to the naked eye of the outside observer.
A common scenario are situations where you might have two parents being represented and finding agreements on things such as child custody and support issues prior to any court order. These initial agreements, often worked out between the parties, can many times work well in terms of providing for shared children in making sure they receive proper care and support — both emotionally and financially.
While contentious issues will always play out a bit, as to be expected in these ordeals, the shared child(ren) at this point are doing okay while the parents adjust to their new lives. At this early stage things are many times manageable for everyone with a sense of balance where parents are able to pay their living expenses and provide equally for the shared children.
As things move through the courts and these initial agreements are adhered to it often lulls one or both parties into a false sense of security.
A father and mother, for example, might be more or less equal in salary and sharing parenting time with their child — with one parent having a little less time than the other — thus providing a little above and beyond to supplement things.
As the cycle plays out things are working, a child is getting what they need and enjoying a lifestyle close to what they had prior to any separation. With all this transpiring so smooth, the bests interests of the child are met — until a disagreement happens. It is at this point most often, where unethical parties seize advantage.
Wink (Judge) and a Nod (Lawyer)
After a parent has endured a cycle of false security, the scene is set for wink and nod interactions between judges and lawyers. After a long period of time where each party adhered to and practiced agreements in the name of their child’s best interest — situations can quickly evolve that drastically disrupt the stability that had been in place.
Typically, what can happen is an opposing attorney can move to have his client receive pendente lite support (months and years after proceedings start), whereby a judge can reach into their goody bag of archaic mechanisms and formulas and within minutes grant such relief — far different from what parties agreed to and practiced for quite some time — whereby the judge can order arrears to be paid to cover months and even years bypassing practiced agreements — all of a sudden the secure financial resources and stability provided to a child have been devastated — many times sending one parent into financial ruin without the resources or wherewithal to pursue recourse.
At this point, the affected parent has limited options. It’s either pay up or face the threat of contempt or make a deal with opposing counsel to settle — sacrificing your due process because of an inability to pay the demands of the court. The other option is you’re forced to take whatever the other side dictates — which is usually terms unfavorable to you and ultimately your relationship with your child.
While the court may defend this type of behavior by citing some laws and formulas — while conveniently forgetting others. If it wasn’t for the venue of this transpiring in a court, it might be argued that this type of situation would meet the definition of extortion — legal extortion of course!
Knowledge is Power
Given the knowledge the court has on each party in a case — with detailed financial information at their fingertips — some very quick arithmetic shows them whether a party can afford the arrears forced upon them.
This, of course, puts this parent into a vulnerable position whereby the other side can now file motions of contempt both prolonging litigation and applying a financial choke hold on the targeted parent — all while increasing the profit flow to opposing counsel exponentially.
Enter the Guardian Ad Litem
On the surface, the Guardian ad litem is an individual that courts appoint sometimes to examine what is in the child’s best interest. Many times these folks are lawyers well known to the courts. No doubt that there are those that serve in this capacity with the best of intentions taking this role seriously and administering their duties ethically — but whether they are aware of it transpiring or not — they can be used as a tool by the court to force unfavorable outcomes on one party.
Judges, in appointing an attorney in this capacity, do so by issuing an order to each party instructing them to split costs which tend to be several thousand dollars.
Once this happens, a party is ordered to pay in a specified time frame or face being penalized by the court. In other words — pay or else!!!
Accountability and Culpability
Extortion is defined as, “the obtaining of property from another induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear, or under color of official right.” One of the big problems many parents and others have when encountering abuses of power by judges, lawyers and other players is they have nowhere to go for recourse or help — with every place they turn not wanting involvement or referring them elsewhere. Which begs the question as to where one looks for help and answers in having these institutions and players held accountable?
Perhaps the answer for sweeping changes and holding those judges, lawyers and other players who game the system accountable, whereby the tactics and activities they engage in meet the bar for extortion can be found in the Hobbs Act which may provide answers and guidance on the Federal Governments authority to get involved.
Of course, if it’s found that many of these acts committed are frequent in nature, by design and transpiring by the same individuals and specific groups of players in concert — the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) may be the better fit.
When family courts engage in these abusive patterns by means of judges, lawyers and players they traumatize many good parents and kids. Consequently something else happens as a result, they plant the seeds for growing numbers of mothers and fathers now speaking out, and rising up, who have reached a point — where intimidation and fear that once gripped them has taken a back seat to something more important for them — something lost in the layers of legal abuse and corruption — justice.
A version of this post was originally published in Huffington Post and is republished here with the author’s permission.
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