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Friday, May 9, 2014


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. 


  1. I appreciate all ideas for reform. But these suggestions move in the wrong direction. Most of the deficiencies of the CT family law system relate to economic incentives. We need to reduce the ability of people to exploit financially families in difficult circumstances. Requiring people to get counseling, training or anything else only increases the possibility of financial exploitation. Dishonest, immoral counselors, trainers and therapists will show up, get judges to order families to retain their services and then bill them huge sums of money. Mandating counseling is a bad idea. That takes parenting rights from parents and gives them to the state. If the parents think their children should have counseling, then that's fine. But it is inappropriate to mandate things. Power to the parents!

  2. I think that family relations is a serious problem as Jane says. When counselors from family relations are so burned out and cynical that they are no longer willing to be respectful and sympathetic towards the parents and children they are supposed to be serving, this is a serious concern. I would agree that the problem is that family relations workers are overwhelmed and often seem to feel unsupported. Granted that this is a problem, Jane's idea that family relations officers should earn additional CEUs makes sense. But even more than that, stress reduction initiatives must become a priority. Folks in family relations are right in the trenches, right on the front lines, and they need considerably more support than they are getting. This is just a general observation that I think the vast majority of people who have gone through the family relations system would probably make. So what Jane is saying here makes a considerable amount of common sense.

  3. Inserting the State further into the family will not help anyone in the family. The most sensible thing to do, which would have the greatest chance for a good outcome for the children, is to award primary custody to the person who was raising the children all along.

  4. This is excellent advice. Many of these suggestions have been given to me over the years and I have been unwilling to accept that I am dealing with a sociopath and I could actually deal with him on my own.

  5. Responding to Ms. Addams fine post of a year ago...her item #1, I wholeheartedly agree and appreciate her sage proposal. Let me quickly disclose my perspective: I'm in my 12th year as a Parent Educator and Consultant a single parent, and have been through my own high-conflict divorce with child custody at the forefront. I've been the targeted parent in PA efforts and after years of conflict, I prevailed on behalf of my children...and also on behalf of both parents! I have been witness to the positive, lasting impact of parenting classes on thousands of families now.

    "Considering what is at stake (in so many family law cases), parents should run to take parenting classes". - A. Jayne Major PhD, rest in peace

    It's been so helpful for parents to have tools, ideas, resources, and of course-education as we strive to maintain 1) our sanity through a high-stakes, often maddening processes, and 2) our effectiveness as stewards of our children. We owe them our best efforts to safeguard them from harm through turbulent times.