The stages of realizing there is a problem with the Family Court System is universal for families, relatives and friends who have experienced the system first hand. In our frustration with the courts we spend different lengths of time working through a series of 5 steps that are similar to the 5 stages of Loss and Grief as first proposed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book “On Death and Dying” No one person will go through this list in the order we have them and many will only experience a few.
Like the Five Stages our model is based on how we try to rationalize a process which cannot be rationalized. We may go through each stage in order or out of order. We may associate with each step or only a few. The Stages of Family Court Dysfunction (FCD) are:
1. Belief – As consumers of judicial services we enter the court system with the idea that this country has the best judicial system in the world. That the professionals who operate within this system do so with neutrality and fairness.
2. Self Doubt and Puzzlement – As the divorce/ custody process gains momentum and hints of flaws with the process start to show we think these issues are the result of things we are doing. “It must be me” that this is happening. We become puzzled by the direction of the divorce/ custody. We realize that things are not going in a direction which makes sense. There is often a flip flop of common sense and values. Black becomes White and White becomes Black.
3. Reason and Disillusionment – We begin to try reasoning with the players. The Guardian ad litem, lawyers and court. Presenting evidence and facts because if they only just read or viewed they would understand what is going on. Disillusionment creeps in when we realize that no matter how much evidence and facts presented – the system is unwilling to listen and understand what your concerns are.
4. Anger – As the reality of the situation starts to settle in we become upset that ‘justice’ does not exist. That those whom we have invested with our trust are untrustworthy. A system which is supposed to protect our children is more concerned with our behavior and whether or not a Guardian ad litem, Special Master or Parent Coordinator will get paid. Our anger can be aimed at anything – our ex, the children, the family pet even the court system.
5. Settlement – Sadly we may never find settlement as the process can continue far into the future. There are parents who settle and do so for far less than what they should and are grateful for what they have. Then there are others who carry on the fight long after their divorce/ custody is over to that future divorcing families will not have to go through what they have experienced.
The process one goes through is one of personal attitude change with exposure to more and more data. This data can come from many sources – from talking and sharing with others, the internet and those who have taken the issue publicly as well as personal experience. Some will try to fix this system with the hopes of repairing their own case; others do so as public spirited citizens, who hope to help others who are going through what they themselves have experienced. How one publicly markets both the human experience in need of fixing and the fixing itself is critical. It will require educating the public and politicians on what the issues are not only for your case but those of others. It took some time for you to understand that your case had problems. Imagine how others who have no experience with family court will respond? They will have a hard time understanding – some will get it. Many will not.
It is important to note that you are not alone and that others have experienced what you have gone through. There are many grassroots organizations that one can find offering support and help on a national as well as local level. It should be noted that out of 50 states there are very few instances of court officers who have been disciplined for malpractice.
If you have had issues with a court officer – Guardian ad litem, Special Master, Parental Coordinator or some other flavor of court appointed officer. We urge you to contact us at NationalGALalert@gmail.com or find us on Facebook.