By Jane Addams
I am writing to you to share with you my ideas about how to improve the Connecticut Family court system and to make the divorce/custody experience a healthier one for everyone involved, and also make it more effective and efficient overall. I would appreciate any feedback on my ideas or assistance in growing these ideas into a bill.
1. We need effective Parenting Education Classes, and we need to encourage parents to attend them.
The current Parenting Education Classes that are required for divorce should be improved and extended. The classes need more in-depth explanations of the impact that parental conflict has on children and the parents. I also feel that all parents who are engaged in a contested divorce with children or who are involved in the custody process need to be required to engage in co-parenting therapy. Such co-parenting therapy should extend into the whole time the parties are engaged in the court proceedings.
I also feel that the loop holes that allow a parent to opt out of the requirement to take a Parenting Education Class needs to be tightened and monitored closely. The court should make it a priority to ensure every parent is reminded/educated on the potential impact their legal proceedings can have on them and their children. This will help motivate and those encourage parents who are able to develop insight through the Classes about the effect of their behavior on their children to do better. For those who need assistance, it will keep these parents focused on doing what is best for their children and themselves which will minimize the negative impact that conflictual parental court proceeding have on children and parents.
In the end, good attendance at the Parenting Education Classes will make both children and parents healthier. This will help the court system operate more effectively and efficiently, saving time and money, because it will be less bogged down by motions and cases where parents are not focusing on what is best for their children and themselves.
It will help prevent, what is unfortunately too common, situations where parents are tying up the court by using it for revenge. I base this recommendation on the simple premise that the natural "normal" and healthy human state allows for cooperation and compromise, particularly in regards to making decisions about children.
Along the same lines, anytime parents can not communicate and develop an agreement, this is an indication that there are underlying "problems" that need to addressed. And as long as these root issues are not addressed than the conflict will continue, despite any well meaning court order or GAL intervention, etc.
2. Children should receive counseling if their parents are engaged in high conflict divorce proceedings.
Children also be required to receive therapeutic support the whole time their parents are engaged in contested court proceedings. Whenever there is conflict between parents, a child will be caught in the middle and this will absolutely cause painful feelings that need to be addressed immediately or these feelings will have a residual effect on the child.
Psychological research has shown that the quicker the support a person with emotional/mental issues receives, the more effective the help. The therapist who is assigned to support the children is not only a person who helps the children process and manage their feelings, this person can also be an advocate for the child, once again, helping everyone involved keep the child's best interest as a priority.
I base this suggestion on the simple premise that when a child is experiencing additional negativity in her life, then she needs additional positive support to heal from it and prevent it from becoming a residual issue.
3. Family Relations Counselors should be required to attend CEU training.
I recommend that anyone involved, working for, or contracted by the Family Court system be required to attend CEU training, particularly in regard to sensitivity/psychology/child development/human service classes, with built-in incentive programs that reward healthy and timely handling of cases to help them also stay focused and motivated to keep children's and parent's best interest as top priority.
I also recommend some sort of moral boosting stress reduction initiative be implemented in the Family Court system This will help combat the apathy and corruption that is an epidemic in the Family court system. It is hard for Family Court workers to do their jobs properly if they are stressed out and disconnected from the consequences of their actions.
And once again, whatever training they receive during the education is not effective to prevent apathy and corruption from seeping into the system. They need constant reminders as we all do. I base this suggestion on the fact that the only way to truly improve interactions between people is to ensure that both parties are getting their needs fulfilled. Parents need help and support to focus on what is best and so do the workers. I think this idea will help make the Family Court reforms more palatable to all involved.
I welcome additional thoughts and responses to this proposal. Please leave your ideas in the comments section below.