A commenter named Mary had some thoughts on high conflict cases in Connecticut. I make a few replies.
Mary: If you have a high conflict case in Connecticut Family Court, it is generally due to someone with a very severe personality disorder who puts his own needs in front of his children… A very small percentage of cases are deemed “high conflict.”
High Conflict cases are easy to pick out from the rest. It is an absolute necessity that these cases are dealt with differently.
Parlato: Family law attorneys usually get run-of-the-mill, low-level, generally not high asset divorce cases where couples can work things out rationally, and they can only bill a few thousand.
When they can get a couple with assets, when one parent is abusive, and the other is protective, when there is hatred, or they can stoke it, this is the potential high conflict case.
Attorneys assess the family’s net worth, who has control of the money, how hard each party will fight. Then they call for a guardian ad litem who is supposed to represent the children’s best interest, who will be the de facto judge. The GAL knows who brought her in, and is dependent on referrals. She will make findings based on maximizing billings for lawyers.
Lawyers, GALs, and most judges do not have the time or knowledge to deal with this sort of anomaly. This is an entirely different animal and must be dealt with as such. Once a case is tagged as high conflict, there needs to be a separate set of rules. And perhaps a separate set of attorneys and judges. Ones who specialize in this area.
Once it moves to high conflict, it goes before judges who understand high conflict means higher billings for lawyers, GALs, therapists, custody supervisors, and evaluators. High conflict occurs when a family has money. No money, no high conflict. The lawyers and GALs make the time, billing by the hour.
There also needs to be state funding to avoid what happens typically in these situations, which is that the one with the money wins. And usually, the one with the money is the one with the personality disorder. It’s like taking a local referee for Little League and placing him in the majors. There’s a different set of rules.
Sometimes they target the one with money to win, sometimes to lose. If attorneys work it right, he won’t have money anymore. He will get the kids if all goes according to plan, but the lawyers will wind up with the college fund.
A perfect high conflict is where there is a protective mother, and a well-to-do abusive father who controls the money.
Parental alienation will be used to take the mother away from the children, and, when the father alienates from the mother, nothing is done. When the mother loses her children, she will act unstable then experts will come in and say she appears to have a mental disorder.
They find the mother insane, take the children away and give them to the father who is insane. [It sometimes works in reverse where the father is the protective parent.] Sometimes both parents are fit, but they can stoke the flames of hate. Then pick the parent to lose.
In the typical scenario, they know the protective mother will fight, though always in defeat, and make the father pay to avoid sharing marital assets, alimony, or child support. He invests in his future by purchasing custody of the children.
As referees, the judges know what they are doing – supporting attorneys’ billings.
High conflict is completely different, and those lines should never be crossed. And until the state in the court system recognizes this, these issues will never stop. You cannot expect the same parties who deal with the typical family litigation to suddenly cross the line and deal with something like this. It is at a completely different level.
They do not want it to stop. They are not in over their heads. They would be if they were seeking justice or the children’s best interest, but they aren’t. They know what the attorneys and GALs want, which is to make sure rulings conform with maximum billings.
Below are a few expert judges. They always ensure attorneys make their billings. If that conflicts with the children’s best interest, which it usually does, since it is money-driven, so be it.
Judges Who Are Qualified to Protect the
Children’s Lawyers’ Best Interest
Judge Jane Grossman
Judge Erika M. Tindall
Judge Gerard Adelman.
Judge Donna Nelson Heller
Judge Mark Gould
Judge Anna Ficeto
Judge Margarita Hartley Moore
Judge Thomas Moukawsher
Judge Jose Suarez