A Broken System: Oaths Betrayed In Family Law

04/05/2017 04:59 pm ET Updated Oct 25, 2017

The slippery slope ensues with perjury becoming acceptable and oaths sworn upon by judges and lawyers falling to the wayside — clearing the path for varying degrees of misconduct.

This is where the seeds of corrupt practices take root and invite a host of unscrupulous motives and tactics in Family Law — allowing for an open season against those adhering to the notion that telling the truth is canon in our judicial system.

Disregarded Oaths

Under Penalty Of Perjury – such words are often portrayed with a sense of reverence in formal legal jargon as the firm footing that enforces truth telling while sending out a message of deterrence to those with the thought and intention of doing otherwise.  Judges and lawyers often extol the virtues of being under oath and take many opportunities to remind folks that to stray from the truth in such a setting could bring harsh consequences – in actuality they are fully aware that such oaths lack any real fortitude when called upon by a father or mother in the arena of family law. 

If it were a game of odds – the party relying on perjury to successfully aid and abet their case has a real good shot of coming out on top.   This is due to the fact that in order for perjury to be investigated in most situations, it has to be referred to the District Attorney’s office to pursue – upon extensively researching how often that happens, one easily comes to the conclusion of rarely — if ever.

Evidence of perjury can often be found and displayed by highlighting contradictions in sworn testimony, statements and factual documentation. The hurdle for so many is not always in obtaining evidence of it, it’s in locating a path to present such findings to the appropriate venue.

Many parents who are victims of perjury often become discouraged at the hurdles in place — how issues arising from this form of deceit are seemingly filtered out from the record or simply ignored by the courts.

Thus with no real consequences or repercussions against those committing perjury nor against the lawyers supporting clients with full knowledge of such transgressions — the result is often the obstruction of just outcomes and best interests.

Common Patterns

The horrific accounts from people nationwide who have suffered at the hands of questionable practices found in family law ordeals seem never ending — as does the multitude of evidence they often collect which raises many flags and questions regarding practices playing out in divorce and custody ordeals. Most alarming is not the uniqueness of each case, but rather the shared commonalities and level of frequency abuses in this area of law take place.

Once king or queen of their homes with the kids greeting them daily and engaging in conversations most take for granted — centered around things like social outings, activities, sports, dances and future plans, such lives turn upside down as a result of lies told and accepted in courts of law. Memories of these earlier, more simpler, times haunt many parents — some clinging to them like cherished possessions when they find themselves overcome with grief and emotion. Many of these parents can at first seem all over the map when reviewing their stories and the complex webs they describe often involving judicial misconduct — many times these parents are characterized by the courts and players in the industry as simply being disgruntled and spewing disjointed ramblings while being unemphatically brushed off in an effort to dissuade any attention from focusing on the validity of the claims they make.

As many parental rights groups and reform advocates can attest, after carefully reviewing many of these cases and listening to parents trapped in this system, what's playing out often reveals many instances of perjury, abuses of process and clear illustrations of the maligned intent — often implicating officers of the court in violating oaths they swore to uphold each and every day.

Abuse Served Cold

The stories and documented evidence of it come from all over — places like Beaufort County, South Carolina, Cumberland County, North Carolina and even Orange County, New York — just to name a few.

Often times the allegations and false information, sworn and attested to, makes its first appearance when the targeted parent receives a visitor (usually in the form of a process server) at the front door — ironically this is also one area where you often find disingenuous intent behind that of simply delivering papers.

While stories exist where it's not always the case, most of the individuals serving these legal documents do so in a professional and courteous manner. In most situations they are unaware as to how they are being used, often by an adversarial opposing counsel whose true intent is to rattle the recipient and fan the flames of discord in these ordeals — sometimes looking to cause knee jerk reactions that are later spun, exaggerated and used in court against that parent.

Like all abuses that take place in this area of law, one must look at the details to discover what is unfolding.

Examining specific dates and times that an opposing party files items with a court and has them served, whereby the opposing counsel almost always has the ability to specify the date, time and location to the process server, can reveal disturbing behavior. This becomes apparent when it is discovered that the dates correspond to significant events and times designed to intrude on special occasions or embarrass the targeted parent. These types of details reveal the intentions aligned with serving papers in this manner are more to harass and agitate an environment ripe with angst. The most common dates for such intrusions often take place on birthdays, holidays, childbirths, religious events, anniversaries and specific occasions that would only be known by opposing counsel and their client to have significance for the targeted parent.

Inconvenient Truths

When confronted with direct evidence of procedural mistakes made, impropriety surrounding an ordeal or concerns over oaths and administrative rules not being properly applied or adhered to — courts generally do not respond favorably.

In fact, these types of truths often seem to be inconvenient for both the courts and lawyers to contend with — putting them in a position where they try and control (and sometimes clean up) the narrative to conform to a more palatable view (and record) of a case. This often shows in observing the players within these ordeals become revisionists to the history of a case — in some situations literally (and conveniently) becoming hard of hearing, seeing and even comprehending the most basic rights afforded to people by the U.S. Constitution.

As people in these ordeals become more aware of the surroundings and mechanisms at play, they are using forethought and meticulous chronicling skills to capture evidence of these unethical situations playing out.

One area parents look at to set the record straight is within the transcripts of various testimony. This is yet another common area where many parents encounter some frustrating dilemmas and obstacles continuously popping up when seeking to merely obtain a copy of a transcript. In other instances you find folks scratching their heads in disbelief and wondering why key dialogue they could have sworn was stated at a hearing is missing from the transcription — missing dialogue that often includes exchanges with the court and various players that conceivably would be frowned upon by ethical standards within the legal profession.

While many folks in such situations have little recourse or proof to substantiate such things — many more have used a bit of savvy and technology in capturing these delays and making their own audio recordings of hearings and cross-referencing them with official transcripts — thus effectively catching inconsistencies. All of which create problems in obtaining an accurate court record and obstruct the timeliness for a parent looking to make an appeal should circumstances necessitate one.

Problem Solving

Continuing efforts to explore some of the feasible ideas and plausible solutions to areas of dysfunction within family law, the below discussion addresses topics involving reforms that would limit environments that invite abuses of the system. (In the name of full disclosure it should be noted that I serve on the board of directors for the National Judicial Conduct and Disability Law Project (NJCDLP) whom coordinate this monthly broadcast)

Allowing judges, lawyers and litigants to play fast and loose with the strictures of sworn oaths pulls the linchpin of integrity out from under the court, opening the floodgates for the continuation of questionable practices and abuses of process to play out with impunity — which in many situations would be curtailed if the system held individuals in family law accountable to those oaths they swore upon.

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