What are some of the common complaints about the family court system and how does this program reduce or eliminate these same complaints and errors?
Complaints from children and parents about judges, children’s lawyers and custody assessors in family court related matters have been a problem for many years which continue to the present time. Some of the issues which have caused the loss of public respect for the family court system include the following:
- The judge’s order was unfair and did not reflect the evidence before the court
- The judge was gender biased.
- The judge did not read the materials before the court.
- Children’s lawyer did not accurately report what the children were saying.
- Custody assessor and children’s lawyer did not contact all collateral witnesses relevant to the case.
- Court transcripts were altered or the court will not release transcripts until the parents file a motion to obtain transcripts.
- Child protection agencies will not release notes and/or disclosures from children.
- Lack of accountability and transparency.
- Family court process takes too long – months and years to complete.
- Too much time was wasted having to go and sometimes having to wait for long periods of time at the courthouse.
- The government funded lawyer representing the child would only make an oral presentation to the court and would not provide a written affidavit.
- The court appointed custody assessor does not give parties an opportunity to review his/her report for errors and/or omissions prior to the assessor submitting their written report into the court.
- Transcripts were not available for case or settlement conferences and/or transcripts taking too long to obtain.
- The judge refuses to allow court hearings to be audio recorded by the parties although the laws in some provinces allow this. For Example, section 136(b) of Ontario’s Courts of Justice Act permits audio recording by the parties in court hearings.
- Lawyers often fail to provide their clients with advice that ensures the child’s best interest is foremost and instead focus on their client’s wishes.
In almost all areas the Program will significantly reduce or eliminate many of the complaints about the family court system. Below are some of the processes uses which could eliminate many of the complaints and errors associated with the current family court system:
- In every case there be at least three Program team members. All information relating to the issues causing conflict is analysed and recommendations formulated through a collaborative team approach. Recommendations are never made by one person.
- To reduce any perception of gender bias, there will be at least one male and one female available as part of the team in each case with each party being able to choose either a female or male worker to work with him or her.
- Interviews with children will be electronically recorded using video recording technology where it is felt that the wishes and preference of the children are required to be independently and accurately heard.
- Any report from the Program team will be given to the parties for their review and each party is given an opportunity to review the report for errors and/or omissions prior to any report or recommendations being finalized.
- There is an appeal process to any report produced by the conflict resolution workers with the appeal process being simple and speedy.
- When final recommendations are formulated by the team and presented to the parties or to the court, should matters go to court for a final order, a detailed report under affidavit will be provided to the judge outlining all of the information gathered with the recommendations from the team.
- The Program will take 30 to 90 days to complete compared to the family court process which may take many months or even years to complete.