On April 1, 2016, I had the opportunity to moderate a state-wide seminar on How Family law Judges Want Attorneys To Try High Conflict Custody Cases. The panel included a family law magistrate, a district court judge, two circuit court judges, a judge from the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, as well as a mental health and an ethics professional.
We spent 4 hours educating highly experienced family law attorneys how to handle those extremely high conflict cases.
So, in several of the scenarios we analyzed, the question of whether family law courts are fair came to mind.
OF COURSE THEY ARE NOT FAIR! They are not designed to be fair. One of the circuit court judges presented the thesis that any family law case that makes its way to a hearing is high conflict, by definition, since the parents could not work it out between themselves.
Another judge asked the question why would any parent knowingly place his or her case in the court system, because the minute a family law case enters the court system, the parents have knowingly given up their child or children to the state.
So, the question is whether the system is gender biased. The answer is no.
But it does not stop there. The REAL question is whether certain family law magistrates or judges remain gender biased. That answer is still likely no, but with some exceptions.
So, why does it often FEEL like there is a gender bias. The answer also came up during this seminar, and the answer is that most often, (a) mental health issues, and (b) very poor parenting decisions tend to create, for lack of a better word, biases within the court system.
One example explored during the seminar involved a mom who was clearly the primary provider and parent for the parties’ children, and a dad who was self-absorbed and not terribly involved. The mom made a major move about 1000 miles away, which deprived the dad of his relationship with their children.
One of the judges was more concerned about the move than about which parent was the primary parent. Another judge properly commented that the true focus should be the children, as opposed to the antics of the parents.
Here is the true point: if you are involved in any type of family law matter, whether it is a high conflict custody or visitation matter, or anything else, you need a great education from a highly experienced family law attorney before you make any move forward.