If there is one piece of nonsense that bothers me the most about CT Family Court it is the mythology the legal community likes to spread around that the people who are being defrauded and exploited in Family Court are just a small minority of crazy people.
The first time I heard this theory of the small crazy minority was from the discussion in the December 2002 report of the Governor's Commission on Divorce, Custody and Children. This report stated as follows, "Conflict between parents during and after separation presents a major risk to children and a major challenge to the system. The majority of divorcing and separating parents recognize their personal responsibility to meet the financial, emotional, and developmental needs of their children. These parents, with some assistance from the Family Services Unit, private mediators or therapists, do their best to work out arrangements for the future life of their children within the changed family. However, a small minority of parents engages in persistent conflict because of anger, characterological or mental health problems, or force of personality."
I had forgotten this discussion regarding the cause of the problems associated with the CT Family Court system. However, in January 2014, when the report was published of the Task Force to Study Legal Disputes Involving the Care and custody of Minor Children, to my surprise, instead of providing new insights based upon the testimony of the many individuals who came to speak to the Task force, the members of the Task Force simply repeated what the 2002 Commission had to say--blaming CT Family Court problems on a small minority of mentally ill people.
But where did this claim originate? That is what I don't get.
We actually do not have any statistical basis for that conclusion; there has been no study, no investigation of CT Family Court records, nothing that establishes this claim in fact.
During the testimony in regard to CT Family Court I heard victims of family court talk of Guardian Ad Litems who couldn't be bothered to meet with their child clients, I heard about attorneys who padded their bills and who created conflicts deliberately in order to increase their legal fees. I heard about judges who refused to allow victims of family court to present their witnesses or their documentary evidence. I heard about mental health professionals who deliberately manipulated family court litigants, pushed quack theories regarding Parental Alienation Syndrome, and aided and abetted in custody switching schemes.
I certainly heard about people being driven to desperation and despair by the CT Family Court system, but I did not see that you could line up a group of people who had been labeled with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or personality disorders and point at them as the source of all the complaints directed towards the legal system.
I asked myself: could it be that pointing fingers at people with mental health labels was simply a way that corrupt family court officials--judges, attorneys, and GALs--had of scapegoating an unpopular social class in order to explain away their wrongdoing?
This is why I was extremely interested in the Biannual Report of the CT Judicial Branch 2012-2014. As soon as it came out, I grabbed the report and quickly flipped to the back where the statistics are located. So this is the story I got out of these statistics.
Based upon the stats in this biannual report, there are approximately 34,000 divorces more or less filed each year in the State of Connecticut. According to the report, half of these cases go to trial, and half of them are disposed of in other ways. So that means approximately 17,000 go to trial. According to retired Judge Lynda Munro, 35% of those continue on to appeal. So that is 5,950 per year that are high conflict, simply by virtue of the fact that not even the trial was sufficient to settle matters.
The CT Judicial Branch and the Legal profession want to say that the people involved in high conflict divorce are a tiny minority. Does approximately 5,950 cases per year seem like a teensy, tiny minority to you guys?
Of course, I am just associating high conflict with the concrete numbers of individuals who are unable to resolve their family court issues to the point where they continue on to appellate court. What about the many more who are also high conflict, but can't afford the legal fees to go any further. What about those who simply give up and accept the fact that they have lost all of their money or won't ever see their children again. What about the additional group of individuals who may never end up in Appellate Court but continue on with years and years of post judgment legal issues. Then there are those who have been blackmailed and intimidated by family court professionals that they are afraid to speak out.
Now you may be getting up to numbers that include at least 50% of litigants or more.
Of course, you could get to 50% simply by saying that any divorcing couple that has to go to trial is automatically high conflict. The bottom line is that any significant trial can cost up to $30,000 for a single litigant, and as much as $60,000 for both. If you are willing to pay that much to go to trial, yes, I would say what you have is high conflict.
I am speculating here with a broad range of numbers. It is good speculation in that I think that the conclusion I've drawn is correct that we have at least 50% or more of litigants entangled in devastating and fraudulent divorce proceedings.
On the other hand, I think that the CT Judicial Branch could go a long way towards ensuring greater accuracy if the Branch actually collected more concrete numbers in a way that was geared towards understanding the actual causes of the problems, rather than just blaming people with mental illness as a way to avoid accountability.