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Thursday, July 23, 2015


Denying the parents access to the Custody Study is a common and old scam. Here's a paragraph from the minutes of the January 21, 2015 Family Commission meeting which deals with the issue:

"Item 01-06J concerns Practice Book Section 25-60A. The request is that any private evaluation not be given to the parties or any attorneys in a case without a court order regarding the report’s dissemination. The members of the Commission discussed whether or not the ADA preempts Practice Book Rule 25- 60A. The members of the Commission agreed that once an evaluation is marked as an exhibit at trial that the Confrontation Clause and Due Process Clause of the Constitution would require that the evaluation be made available. Concerns were raised about how a case can be resolved without knowing the contents of an evaluation. Another consideration discussed by the members of the Commission involved trying to protect children from the contents of the evaluation. Evaluation contents have been known to turn up on the internet and on social media where children and even the public can see it. The Commission will ask the Legal Services Unit to research the issue of whether the ADA preempts Practice Book Section 25-60A. Judge Dranginis, Steven Dembo, and Thomas Parrino will work on draft language for the members of the Commission to consider at the next meeting."

The general idea is to make the parents pay for a Custody Study and then allow the judge to base orders on the Custody Study without revealing the contents to the parents. 

The Family Commission minutes suggest that once the study is marked as an exhibit at trial, the Confrontation Clause and Due Process Clause require it to be made available. 

This discussion shows how little constitutional law family law judges and lawyers know. The Confrontation Clause is part of the 6th Amendment to the US Constitution. It provides that in all CRIMINAL matters, the accused has the right to be confronted with witnesses against him. 

I'm sure that parents may feel like criminal defendants in family court, but the provision does not apply. 

The 14th Amendment's Due Process Clause does apply, and it applies much more broadly than the Family Commission minutes suggest. In fact, parents have a constitutional due process right to see the report before the judge uses it to justify any action. Moreover, since they paid for the report, the parents may very well own it. It is their report. By denying them access to it, the court violates their liberty interest in their own property. 

Of course this latter issue is present every time the a family court judge orders parents to pay the divorce industry. 

In short, Connecticut family courts just blatantly violate parents' constitutional rights as a matter of practice. 

The January 21, 2015 Family Commission minutes are interesting in that, for the first time ever, the judges and divorce lawyers actually purport to address a constitutional issue. And of course their analysis is horribly wrong.

1 comment:

  1. I am aware of at least three cases in which judges ordered parents to pay for a custody evaluation and then denied the parents access to the evaluation. This was standard practice, and the divorce industry loved it. It basically removed the parents from the divorce process, but left their cash available to pay "professionals." It was becoming more common, which is why the Family Commission had to address it. I am just shocked that the Family Commission didn't endorse the strategy whole hog. I suspect they will still find a way to bless the process, particularly if Dembo is involved. And it doesn't matter what the Family Commission decides since the judges can do whatever they want without consequence.