This is an issue that is very near and dear to my heart.   I have a plan to revamp the NC Family Law code to ensure that our children’s best needs are at the center of all custody disputes.  There are literally hundreds of reforms that need to be made, so I will take a moment here to discuss a few.  Before I get into specifics, I want to point out that the divorce/family law industry is a $50 billion dollar a year industry, and the laws are written to ensure that the industry is the only winner in any family law dispute.  Divorce and custody issues are designed to be as combative as possible, with little incentive to ensure that parents compromise and focus on the children’s best interest.   I have several reforms that need to be made to help address this issue.

First, I will introduce legislation that would effectively eliminate the dis-proven 30+ year old tender years doctrine that so many judges stick to in spite of state laws which require no presumption as to which parent is more appropriate.  The legislation will create a rebuttable presumption of 50/50 custody when there is a child with 2 fit parents.  This just means that negotiations will start at 50/50 with the mandatory minimum parenting time set at 35% as is described in modern social research on what is in the best interest of the child.   The legislation will also update the current mediation laws to provide incentives to reach an agreement in mediation.  It will require both parents to submit a parenting plan, and will require the judge to accept whichever submitted plan would grant the children the most time with both parents. 

Second I will introduce legislation that makes parental interference a criminal act, with the first 2 incidents being misdemeanors and any subsequent acts being a class “C” felony.  The whole point is to ensure that both parents are working to foster a healthy relationship between the children and their other parent.  The law will include a simple form for the injured party to fill out and file with the magistrate along with the police report.  Ultimately if interference continues, the judge will have to consider modifying custody to ensure that the children are with the parent most willing to foster a healthy relationship.   

That leads directly into legislation required to classify the act of parental alienation as child abuse. Parental alienation occurs when a parent works to poison a child’s mind against the other parent.  Often it begins with the parent including the children in the adult issues.  This continues as the parent actively works to make the child ashamed of their desire to see the other parent.  Often times, the child is punished for speaking of their other parent, or for the other parent attending social functions… This action is extremely harmful to the child’s mental health, and can ultimately lead to the destruction of their relationship to the other parent. 

To ensure the judges and legal professionals are following the laws, I will work to upgrade the family court system digital recording from only audio to timestamped closed circuit television.  This recording would then become the official record of the court, and the source of the official transcript.  There will be penalties for the courts & judges in control of the record if there is any time missing from the official record.    Each judicial district will be subject to random reviews to ensure they are following the laws the state imposes.

Which leads into absolute judicial immunity.  There has been much ado about whether or not family court judges should be granted judicial immunity, and it is my opinion that in many cases judges need to be able to do their jobs without fear of financial reparations for the person(s) they have ruled against, however; immunity should never be granted when a judiciary operates outside of the laws that govern them.  Allowing such absolute immunity only encourages corruption.  It is when corruption begins that criminal action should swiftly follow, for if our court system in corrupted, then our country is corrupted.  See paper here.  .

This leads into due process and Constitutional protections in family court.  While many procedural violations have been addressed before state appellate and supreme courts, most don’t deal with some of the most egregious violations of due process in Family court.  This includes using the preponderance of evidence standard when granting an order of protection against someone, it includes imposing jail as a punitive measure for the inability to pay child support and other “contempt” charges without providing legal counsel or a trial by jury.  This includes an unconstitutional law restricting licensing as a method to collect child support.  These violations of due process and constitutional violations of the 5th and 14th amendments must be addressed.  See examples here.

While I could go on all day about Family court reform, I will end this here, and if you would like to discuss this section, please feel free to contact me through my facebook page (just click the logo in the footer) or submit a form on the Contact page.