Take it from an expert: family court reform is long overdue

April 13, 2014

An experienced attorney with a specialty in child custody matters, a former Harvard Professor, and Associate Editor of the Journal of Child Custody, Toby Kleinman has recently written a poignant article in the Trauma Psychology newsletter of the American Psychological Association about the procedures of family courts and their inadequate approaches to child abuse issues.

Kleinman persuasively makes the point that family court procedures fudge with respect to evidence and lack the application of real science, and that instead judges untrained in the recent studies regarding child abuse make decisions concerning the safety of children. It turns out, as Kleinman explains, that these decisions frequently place vulnerable children in harm’s way.

Why are family courts so lax when it comes to rules of evidence, why are they so lacking in procedures that permit the introduction of real science, why are judges deciding personal matters based on feelings, impressions, and inflammatory “declarations” made by angry parties which are full of inadmissible speculative allegations? As Kleinman points out, criminal courts don’t function this way in the United States. Why the family courts?

In family court, many preliminary decisions are made by judges without trial, and paid “custody evaluators” with strong recommending power often make evaluations with the understanding that allegations of abuse are somehow caused by coaching by the protective parent with the intent to gain an upper hand in custody matters. In fact, Kleinman points out, statistics belie this widespread belief, and children rarely claim abuse falsely.

Family court reform is sorely needed – throughout the United States, and in fact throughout the world.

This article, Family Courts Must Demand Science, by Toby G. Kleinman, Esq., is published in the American Psychological Association, Division 56, Trauma Psychology Newsletter, Spring 2014 issue and will soon be available online.

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