June 11, 2015
By Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
One of the most serious failures of state bar associations is the manner in which they train family court judges about the social science on parenting time as it affects children’s well-being. Family courts routinely cite the “best interests of children” in their rulings, but there’s little to indicate that they’re aware of the masses of social science demonstrating that, when both parents are fit, equal or nearly equal parenting serves children best.
So there’s a movement afoot to gain access to judicial training materials to see just what judges are being taught. Importantly, when Arizona State University professor William Fabricius began teaching judges in that state a few years ago, judicial parenting orders changed radically from mostly sole or primary maternal custody to mostly shared custody. One Arizona activist told me that the training he provided was the single most important factor in changing the culture of family courts regarding parenting time orders.
Now longtime Nebraska advocate for shared parenting, Dr. Les Veskrna, has filed a lawsuit against the Administrator of the state courts seeking those training materials. He requested them under the state’s Public Records Act, but was denied access. Now he’s filed suit. We’ll be following that suit carefully to see if the state’s judiciary will require itself to open its records to the public that pays their salaries.
All states have open records laws that, on their face, permit public access to and knowledge of the information judges are taught to guide them in their deliberations on one of the most important of all judicial decisions — child custody. Therefore, parents in other states should seriously consider seeking that information in their states and filing suit if it’s denied.