As a family law attorney, I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly with justice system as we know it. While there are many legal professionals who champion for fairness, there are plenty of unfortunate circumstances that surround the Federal Court System and the North Carolina Court System, especially when it comes to child custody and disputes. I know all too well how the justice system, on state and national levels, is outdated and unjust. That’s why I choose to practice collaborative law. This process keeps my family law clients out of the courtroom. I believe that Americans should have equal access to family law attorneys, parents should be fairly represented, and new laws should be created to update the current system.
As I’ve researched as part of my book, The Cure for Divorce Culture, divorce in the United States is a $55 billion industry. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that nearly half of all marriages end in divorce, which contributes to the supply and demand of attorneys, mediators, counselors, therapists, and financial experts that are utilized in these cases. This also means that child custody cases are more common than ever and millions are becoming children of divorce.
I’ve noticed that current laws surrounding these types of family issues are outdated. Current family dynamics are much different than they were when these laws were created. For example, the working class has changed as more women enter and stay in the workforce. I discussed this topic with award-winning journalist, activist, and author, Emma Johnson. As a successful and happy single mother, she is the creator of the online resource, Wealthy Single Mommy. She states that there are 10 million unmarried moms heading families in the United States. Emma encourages these women to not only raise amazing and healthy children, but also build successful businesses and careers fort themselves. She advocates for women to not rely on their ex-spouses for financial support. Click here to listen to our conversation and learn how she is helping moms who need funding by way of grants.
This concept of unmarried and successful moms is another reason the laws of the family court system need to change. These old-fashioned stereotypes contribute to injustice in the court system when it comes to divorce, child custody, and alimony. This is one reason why fathers often are not represented as fairly in a divorce or custody situation. Fathers, by default, are usually considered the secondary parent. I serve on the Board of Directors for the National Parents Organization (NPO) and have heard the stories of dozens of men who were alienated from their children because of the court system. Don Hubin, PhD is an expert in family relationships and parental rights. In addition to serving as the chair of the National Board of Directors for NPO, he is the director of the Center for Ethics and Human Values at The Ohio State University. He and I discussed the impact of the justice system on child support and custody cases. Don says, “most parents don’t fully understand the legal process or all of the consequences of court decisions concerning child custody and child support. As a result, their rights, and those of their children, are often not adequately protected. Parents who should have joint legal and shared physical custody of their children are often shuttled to the sidelines of their children’s lives, to the detriment of the children. Unreasonable child support obligations can be imposed on parents, based on imputed income that they are incapable of earning when they are unable, acting without counsel, to prove this to the court.”
Don recently published “Parental Rights and Due Process” in the Journal of Law and Family Studies to share his research in how parental rights are fundamental constitutional rights. Through his extensive research and studies, he says changes can happen in court systems that would increase a fairness in family law. His suggestions include removing the terror that fit, loving, involved parents feel at the prospect of being sidelined in their children’s lives. In our conversation, he stated that, “assuring both parents that they will continue to be fully involved in the day-to-day activities of raising their children will go a long way not only toward promoting fairness in family law but toward reducing conflict between parents. It will benefits children immensely if their divorcing parents focus on how to divide parental responsibilities reasonably and fairly instead of focusing on who ‘wins’ in a battle that, ultimately, everyone loses… especially the children.”
In North Carolina, State Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley recently addressed the intersection of the justice system. In an address given on June 2, 2020, she shared how she plans to improve the justice system. She cited a 2015 study that found a majority of North Carolinians lack trust and confidence in the State’s court system. She said in part, “the data also overwhelmingly bears out the truth of those lived experiences. In our courts, African-Americans are more harshly treated, more severely punished and more likely to be presumed guilty… We must develop a plan for accountability in our courts. Judges work hard and are committed to serving the public. But even the best judges must be trained to recognize our own biases. We have to be experts not just in the law, but in equity, equity that recognizes the difficult truths about our shared past. We must openly acknowledge the disparities that exist and are too often perpetuated by our justice system.”
Over the past decade, in the instance of family law, I’ve seen firsthand how many people don’t have access to quality attorneys. Many don’t even have access to legal information. While there are some resources available for those who qualify, there aren’t nearly enough. In North Carolina, Legal Aid is a wonderful nonprofit law firm that provides free legal services in civil matters to low-income people. Its mission is to ensure equal access to justice and to remove legal barriers to economic opportunity. The group defends its clients in civil cases that involve basic human needs like safety, shelter, and income. While it offers some resources for family law, it does not typically handle divorce, alimony, spousal support, and equitable distribution cases. Legal Aid experts can offer various resources and point individuals in the right direction. To learn more about available resources, reach out to your local office by clicking here.
I am an attorney with integrity. As a child of divorce, I genuinely and passionately care about the well-being of children in our society. They deserve the best from both parents, which means both parents deserve equal access to justice. I am actively working to change our legal system and the outdated laws to enable healthy relationships for children and their parents in custody disputes, even after separation and divorce. I am on a mission to cure the broken divorce culture of America and change the system to one that is fair to families, my clients and children of divorce.
If you’re interested in learning more about collaborative family law and reaching A Negotiated Resolution, contact AN|R Law Offices. We have three North Carolina locations in Greenville, Raleigh, and Beaufort.