October 2, 2018
BACKLOG OF FAMILY COURT CASES LEADS TO UNNECESSARY DELAYS IN RULINGS FOR DIVORCES
Divorce remains the most common type of domestic relations case in state courts, and while the number of new filings stabilized in recent years, a lack of resources and funding can often lead to delays in receiving a ruling.
Due to dwindling resources and turnover among family court judges, hearings can often be pushed backed and create an environment of uncertainty for the thousands of children caught in the middle. National Parents Organization (NPO) believes family court outcomes should be as prompt as possible to assist children in maintaining the important relationships with both the mother and father following a divorce or separation.
“There are too many instances where parents are denied access to a child or are losing jobs and homes due to a backlog of court cases,” said Petra Maxwell, Executive Director of NPO. “We do not have the proper resources allocated in our family court system to handle this very important part of our domestic relations judicial process. This is a widespread problem that creates unnecessary issues for families in need of a prompt resolution in order to properly address the well-being of their children.”
According to the Court Statistics Project, one divorce is filed per 200 people in the United States every year. Domestic relations cases, especially those involving child support and custody, are often returned to the court’s docket for additional action.
However, thousands of cases are being handled in a system with a shortage of judges and support staff, inadequate opportunities for emergency hearings and inefficient processes that result in cases being bounced around. A recent news report out of Pennsylvania highlighted a woman being forced to incur losses of thousands of dollars on a new home because the family court could not make a ruling on parental custody in an adequate amount of time.
A recent study in California identified a need to address the backlog of files, with the courts enlisting and training volunteer attorneys and mediators to help in the process.
Current research shows an uncontested divorce can be completed in nine months, but that time frame grows to almost 18 months when any matters are disputed. Thirteen states, including Kentucky and Virginia in the past year, have enacted shared parenting laws, which seek to provide an assumption of equal time with both parents whenever possible.
“When both parents are willing participants in their children’s lives, the courts should do whatever possible to help facilitate those outcomes,” Maxwell said. “Shared parenting as a starting point in default parenting plans maintains judicial discretion but creates an opportunity for children to maintain a relationship with mom and dad and hopefully ease the strain on contested proceedings that further burden the system’s resources."
ABOUT NATIONAL PARENTS ORGANIZATION
National Parents Organization, a charitable and educational 501 (c)(3) organization, seeks better lives for children through family law reform that establishes equal rights and responsibilities for fathers and mothers after divorce or separation. The organization is focused on promoting shared parenting and preserving a child’s strong bonds with both parents, which is critically important to their emotional, mental, and physical health. National Parents Organization released the Shared Parenting Report Card, the first study to rank the states on child custody laws, and in 2017, National Parents Organization hosted the International Conference on Shared Parenting, bringing in research scholars from 18 countries to share their results on shared parenting. Visit the National Parents Organization website at www.nationalparentsorganization.org