I have witnessed first hand the decline of the divorce process in this country over my 24 year career as a law enforcement officer. In the years since my retirement and specifically this past year I have a seen such a rapid decline, that it has surpassed even what I could have foretold.
It really was only a matter of time before the larger police agencies followed the steps taken by smaller agencies who years ago in frustration due to the lack of action by court resorted to a “hands off approach” dealing with Family Law. This is because the courts have failed to hold people accountable for perjury, withholding custody, and other violation of court orders that have resulted in police responses.
In cases where reports are taken, many times it is the individual who fills out the report and not the police officer. There is no investigation of the facts, no statements taken, no interview of witnesses, no finding or conclusion to the report that was filed. Enforcement of the report becomes the responsibility of the individuals to obtain in the Family Law Court system.
So the question becomes; where do individuals go to obtain help in dealing with violation of court orders? If police tell families to go to court, and court tells the families to call police and each point fingers to the other how is the cycle to be stopped from repeating itself time and time again?
How are we to correct the deterioration of the divorce process in this country? Never mind that the issue of divorce has really become a global topic/issue. Each country losing it’s grasp on how to make it better how to resolve the issues.
The impact from all of the fallout from divorce has had a ripple effect through every aspect of our social structure; schools, financial markets, real estate, businesses and employers, health care system, workman’s compensation, jails, law enforcement, social services and more.
Like so many other issues, there is always alot of finger pointing to go around. Whose fault is it, the courts, the police, government, local, state, federal, legislators, congress. Who is responsible?
Of course the usual suspect and the finger pointing ends up on the individuals who use the system. But I am not buying that.
Do people behave badly in a divorce yes, some do, most do actually one or both at some time or another. I think that we can all agree on that. But in the end it really comes down to this. Individuals will only do as much as they can get away with. The bully’s will test the waters so speak, with simple violations here and there. When no consequences are applied they increase frequency, scope and the number of violations, escalating and spinning the issues out of control. Until they are stopped. Unfortunately in Family Law that usually means never. With the bully being the winner.
The simplest analogy that I can give to this problem is this. If you have drivers who are exceeding the speed limit, driving unsafely on the street, endangering pedestrians and other drivers alike and you park empty police vehicle as a deterrent, as soon as everyone realizes that the vehicle is empty and there is no threat it is business as usual.
Ultimately it is the writing of traffic tickets that results in correction of the scenario. With increased enforcement, comes the desired effect. Everyone is safer. Drivers and pedestrians alike. Same with Family Law. Families need the stability that come with the enforcement of court orders. No enforcement no stability!
In reality the problem of violations of court orders, custody and everything else related to divorce starts and ends with the courts. It is within the power of the courts stop nearly everything. They have only to act within the scope provided them in the law now.
The courts have the authority, the power and the ability now to apply consequences and punishment. Whether that punishment is financial, custody, or a combination of the two, custody and financial. Ultimately the court could use jail if there was a complete refusal to comply.
And yes, I am very aware of the argument having heard it repeated many times. To punish the parent is to punish the child, and we don’t want to punish the child for the sins of the parents. Parents who are for the most part good individuals who under duress, are at their worst dealing with the termination of their marriage.
The problem is while this may sound good in theory or conversation the application of it as a policy has been a complete failure. A failure that is compounding itself every day, of every week, of every month and year, for every family. Until we have the current scenario of chaos even homicides, suicides, kidnappings, child abuse and more.
Not to mention what we are teaching the children by this lack of action. That the bully wins. That the individual with the power controls the outcome, regardless of whether it is right or wrong.
Children want to be safe, and if the good parent cannot protect them cannot have the court order enforced, children will by intuition go with the stronger, bully parent for safety and survival. This is also borne out in research.
I won’t even begin to go into the damage we do when ask children which parent they wish to live with, putting them square in the middle. Or worse that children begin to manipulate their parents, saying if you don’t give me this or let me do this, or tell on me, I am going to live with the other parent. I can do an entire write up on this issue alone and may just do that in the very near future.
Think how much easier divorce would be if we combined the effect of punishing for bad behavior and rewarded for good behavior. This change requires no legislative changes in the law, and can start tomorrow if someone has but the courage to begin.
We could begin to see the change that all of us want so desperately including the courts simply by doing what we know is necessary for our society. Enforcement of the law for the safety, care and well being of a community, state and country.
So the question is do you agree or disagree with my hyphosis that if the court’s merely enforced the law, enforced their own court orders, ruled on violations of court orders so that individuals believed that they would receive consequences and did that many of the issues we currently have would in effect not exist.
Catherine MacWillie, the CEO of Custody Calculations, is a retired law enforcement officer. Company services include seminars, Divorce Boot Camp and Divorce Coaching, available by telephone, text, email and or fax. To learn more call 702-375-9389 or their hot line number 702-675-5120. Call for a free consultation.