A movement is afoot to fight the battle against the onslaught of government intervention, at least in family matters, in a far less traditional way than usual.
Reform Family Law Now has decided that since the fight isn't being won on a piecemeal basis, it is time to engage it on the broadest level possible, class action litigation on a nationwide basis in the federal courts. The founder of the Reform Family Law Network, Andrew J Thompson believes that, at best, Constitutional rights are being ignored in family law courts, and at worst, they are trampled upon.
"The decisions that are routinely made, with no jury, in family law courts, are made in ways that would never even be considered in other civil litigation, and certainly not in criminal litigation. But here we have cases that address the rights that are most central to an individual's life, the free association and continuity of relationship with family, and yet in those very matters, the courts show the least respect for litigant's rights."
Mr. Thompson sees this occurring from the moment a divorce is filed through the very last payment of support, or final good-bye to a child when they leave the home. He cites all of the following as instances wherein parties' Constitutional rights routinely are overlooked:
- the failure to use a high standard of proof or empanel a jury when a person's rights are restricted via a temporary or permanent restraining order that can be used to inhibit the relationship with a child;
- the lack of equal protection of the law between the parties in making custody and support determinations;
- the abridgement of due process rights of parents with respect to the intrusions of government by child protective services agencies and other administrative agencies that wield extraordinary power in the lives of families; and
- in child support matters concerning the imputation of income, enforcement of uncollectible arrearages, and other arbitrary practices that do not and are not allowed to exist in other areas of law.
Mr. Thompson believes that changing the law through the legislative process is not enough, "Part of the problem is that you have federal laws and state laws working in tandem and needing change simultaneously. This is nearly impossible to accomplish since the state and federal legislatures are always working on their own agendas under their own timetables."
Thus, the route of pursuing class action. "There are literally millions of children in the United States - millions - who are already partially or fully alienated from one or both parents. This epidemic goes well beyond the scope even of the tobacco litigation of the 90's. Nearly every immediate or extended family in America has experienced the wrongful treatment of the system in one way or another."
Will it work? "That's very unclear at this point, but it should. Not so much because it is likely that the courts will line up with the class litigants. After all, even the states lost a few battles with the tobacco industry before they got their litigation off the ground, but because the issues at stake here are far too important to lose. Children need both of their parents and it's time that the system is reformed to prevent the active alienation of one or both parents from their kids."