How To Navigate Family Court

How To Navigate Family Court

What to expect when you file to protect your child in Family Court
  • Many protective parents will file for divorce when they discover their spouse is abusing their child. A protective parent could also ask the court for a restraining order or a legal separation.
  • If you report abuse during your custody case in CA, you have an 85% chance of losing custody of your child/children. Elsewhere in the country, the percentage is 60 to 70%. We are working on changing this. While we would never like to see an abuser gain custody of their victims, we also know leaving a child with an abuser is detrimental to a child’s wellbeing.  
  • The child’s “best interest” is the standard in family courts.  
  • See the CA Court’s Custody and Domestic Violence page at http://www.courts.ca.gov/1191.htm
  • Custody Splits
    • CA is not a 50/50 custody state, but leans towards 50/50 when there is a dispute between parents. Usually this implies there is at least one unhealthy parent.  
    • We believe a child should not be living with their named abuser and supervised visits with the abuser are an option. If there is abuse, request supervised visitations for the abuser based on the facts. 
    • Most healthy parents will do what is best for the child. In most circumstances for younger children, this means primary custody with the nurturing, primary parent. Children struggle going back and forth every other day, every other week, or even a split week such as a 2-2-5 rotation.
  • Court Reporter and Transcripts
    • To appeal a case or report any wrongdoings, a court transcript is needed. 
    • Most counties do not provide court reports and the litigants are responsible for hiring a court report if they choose to do so.
    • For due process, there should be a transcript of every hearing. New legislation would be required to have court reporters for every county and in every courtroom.
    • Currently Los Angeles, Santa Clara and Sonoma are among small number of counties to have court reporters. Litigants must contact the court reporter to purchase the transcript directly from them.  
  • Americans with Disability Act (ADA) - If you qualify with PTSD or any other disability (including diagnosis newly assigned by court professionals), you can apply for ADA accommodations. These can include a support person, extra time, request to record hearings to later review. See Karin Huffer’s book on Legal Abuse Syndrome below.
  • Always be honest in your court documents. Typically the abuser will be fabricating information to disperse to the court. The abuser is in self-protection mode. Remember, the abusers job is to divert attention away from the abuse. Do not allow the abuser to get you off focus. Stand in the truth. Keep your focus on facts and the abuse.  
  • Remain neutral in court.
    • Alway say “our children” and not “my children” in documents and while speaking in this process.
    • Present the facts clearly and calmly, and ensure you want what is best for the children The facts may lead to the need for supervised visits. Your anger, frustration or resentment will not help the court make a responsible decision, regardless of how wrong the other party is in the matter.
    • Take emotional content out of any of your documents.  
  • Stay within the Court and do not use private evaluators or judges.
    • Many times, your attorney may urge you, or the court may order you, to hire a private evaluator. Avoid all private evaluators if at all possible. Most of the time the abuser is the one who can afford these evaluations that cost $8,000 to over $60,000. The protective parent usually cannot pay for these fees and the evaluators have been known to favor the parent who pays.
    • Private judges are used more like settlement conferences. You will not be able to appeal these decisions if there are any wrongdoings in your process.  
  • Stay calm.
    • The court only wants to deal with the facts. Stay calm and be respectful in court.
Know the CA Family Code and Rules of Court
Strategies that are used against Protective Parents
  • Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) should never be used in CA or anywhere.
    • Richard Gardner create PAS as a way of blaming the reporter of abuse. He also thought pedophilia and child molestation was OK. He committed suicide.  
    • PAS has been debunked and is not in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5).
    • Abused children dislike their abusers without being told to do so.
  • The Judicial Council of CA teaches courts not to use PAS, but it is still being used throughout the state
  • Other strategies uses may include PAS with another name: delusional, parental alienator, enmeshment, man-child syndrome, coaching, manipulative, gatekeeping, and others.
Finding Court Approved Supervisors for Supervised Visits
Each county in CA is different. Some counties require visitations at a center while others allow for court trained professionals to supervise your child/children with the abuser.
How to Report Wrongdoings
When you enter into the family court system, you believe all procedures and laws will be followed. In many cases, they are not. There are agencies that are designed to protect the public from wrongdoings. When you believe you are wronged, promptly report it. As a reminder, you will need court transcripts to better your complaint, although it is not required. While in the past, there could be retribution for reporting, we have been worked on making these agencies more accountable for ensuring family court judges, therapists, counselors and lawyers are more accountable. We are in this process of moving towards full accountability, working to ensure professionals are responsible for their actions by asking for audits and oversight hearings. Please note, these are all the agencies within CA. For other states, please look up the agencies in your area.

Beyond reporting, you may also attend board council meetings

  • For Judges - Commission of Judicial Performance (CJP)
    • If you have a complaint against a judge, you can file a complaint with the CJP. Currently the CA Legislature approved an audit of the CJP (in 2016 and due to a lawsuit file by the CPJ, this audit has yet to begin in 2017). Records show 90% of the complaints are dismissed and of the 10% reviewed, only 1% of the judges are reprimanded. We recommend you file a complaint now, for the audit should expose the problem and these should be handled properly moving forward. Be sure to have your complaint in keeping with Canons of Judicial Ethics.. https://www.saccourt.ca.gov/general/docs/ca-code-judicial-ethics.pdf 
    • Note, if you only disagree with the ruling and no laws were broken by the judge, you should file an appeal. See Appeal help below.

  • For Lawyers - CA State Bar
    • If you have a complaint against a lawyer for unethical behavior as an officer of the court, you can file a complaint here. We have heard this board is more apt to deal with all valid complaints.

  • For Psychologists - Board of Psychology 
    • If you have a psychologist who has not followed the code of ethics and has wronged you, you can file a complaint with the Board of Psychology. Currently the board has been seen to be dismissing valid complaints. We are working with the Board to ensure these complaints are dealt with properly or we will be asking for an audit.

  • For Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists - Board of Behavioral Sciences
    • If you have a complaint against a LMFT or others licensed by the BBS, you can file a complaint with them to ensure these therapists do not continue to harm your family or others.

  • For Perjury - District Attorney
    • Lake County in California with the support of CPPA has presented a training for all counties to understand how to prosecute for perjury. Please contact your DA, ask them to watch the video for perjury prosecution and report to them the perjury incident in your case.

  • For Court Appointed Paid Experts - The Department of Consumer Affairs
    • The DCA is to protect and serve California consumers to ensure a competent and fair marketplace. The DCA can help you protect yourself from individuals who will are unqualified, unlicensed or unethical.

  • Is your professional licensed or have they been reported for malpractice?
    • Many professionals will may operate without a license. Please ensure your professional has a license and is in good standing within their organization:
How to Appeal your Case Decision

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