Dear Dr. Archer,
"AND JUSTICE FOR ALL?"
Six years ago I tried to leave my abusive husband. I believed the legal system was a professionally governed organization where my rights and my property would be protected.
I went into family court believing in my history teacher's promises that we live in a land and have a government whose words, "And Justice For All" are backed up with our justice system and the laws of our land. I also knew I could be found dead if I did not escape this man.
Since my family court experience, I now know that there is no justice in family court, and in fact there is extreme injustice; the laws of the land are applied if you have money to take the case to appellate court, as Family Court is a special court of law that is not a court of equity.
Court of law verses a court of equity. This is important for abuse survivors to understand. There is no jury of peers in family court; there's only one judge who doesn't understand the dynamics of domestic violence.
The judge is given authority to make decisions that affect the survivor's family, financial, physical, emotional, and mental health. After you have finished, the attorneys and the system, who have all knowledge of your financial information, know you do not have money to appeal the judge's decision to a higher court.
Your fate is sealed; you are stuck with your decree. If you have children, this court decree becomes a double-edged sword that cuts you and your children.
While I do not advise people to stay with abusive mates, I cannot advise survivors to trust family courts and all the professionals who benefit from family court.
If you stay you could lose your life and your children would be forced to live without your protection with an abusive parent. Family court may state that a parent doesn't have to be a good parent to have parental rights.
Of course if you try to protect your children, then you are alienating the children from the other parent. The court of law may decide to take the children from you and give them to foster care or to the abusive parent to preserve the rights of the abusive party.
Why hasn't this system changed? Why is there no media coverage? The American Bar is a private body comprised of lawyers. Is it too much about profit and not about the protection of children and families?
Victims of abuse are not aware of the injustice until they step into the court room with an abusive partner and begin to realize that the Family Court is a playground where the disordered can manipulate all the players.
The players will not change the system because they have mortgages that need to be paid and profits to be made. The judges will not speak up, because the attorneys will not fund their elections.
What are those of us who have suffered left to do? We have become survivors of a dysfunctional organization and many of us suffer with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Depression and Anxiety.
If we did not develop PTSD surviving in our relationships with a disordered individual, we will develop PTSD when exposed to a system that is set up to punish and keep us exposed to trauma.
Your attorney will threaten to withdraw if you challenge he is playing a game with your life. The attorney expects their bill to be paid, even trumped up charges. The Bar of you state will claim you have no claim against the attorney; just pay the bill.
I believe that all we can do is keep challenging the validity of this system, writing, talking to others, counseling, presenting reality to others and asking all to support a change to this system.
Survivors are suggesting if domestic violence is involved, the case should be heard in criminal court, with a jury deciding the fate, not a judge or clerk.
If you have been raped by the family court system, keep talking and share your story. I wish that I had the opportunity to have heard your stories before I entered this court of injustice that permitted more abuse and financial violence.
I would have been safer financially and physically if I had avoided hiring the attorneys that I hired. These attorneys were not aware of all facts of my case; they were interested in what money they could make.
There was more justice when I was able to present the evidence to the court and file pro se. If you file pro se, you will have to learn the laws and I recommend that you have a disability advocate with you.
This is important because in the presence of your abuser, you may become symptomatic and will need support. The court claims that the pro se litigant clogs the system, but perhaps this is a system that should be clogged. Perhaps another avenue is to file civil charges for damages.
A very serious damage is the formation of complex Post Traumatic Stress due to the legal abuse. You may want to check out attorneys who litigate brain injuries.
Are there many attorneys who will dare challenge the system and become a whistleblower? I'd like to see a national foundation set up to challenge and assist those who have been injured.
I humbly ask those of you who have ideas for solutions write to me. We must help each other, because we do not have the assistance from the legal system, victim advocates, our legislators, or the media.
LMHC (licensed psychotherapist)
West Palm Beach, Florida
I don’t believe all family courts are corrupt, but I will say that based on the letters received here and what I have read, that it is a growing problem across the country.
As I hear more and more instances of what devastation family court has created, my advice can only be to hire the best attorney you can afford. Unfortunately, it's often not the facts of the case that matter, but how well the facts are manipulated. All too many times truth has been forced to take a back seat, while the high-priced attorney rules the day.
I am keeping your email address public because you requested those with solutions write to you. Check back here, as well, as I encourage folks to leave their comments below the story.
I sincerely commend you for your efforts to right this problem. Family court should always keep the best interest of the child paramount. Somehow, in many cases, that has been lost, but I believe it can be reinstated -- it just takes the first step. Good luck in your endeavor and stay in touch, Rebecca. Readers?