Californians Propose Changes to State’s Family Courts

In California (although not exclusively), there is widespread dissatisfaction with the workings of the family courts.

Numerous legislators have and continue to propose legislation to address the problems and improve their performance.

Several legislators are also seeking audits of several counties’ family courts, in an effort to account for inconsistent outcomes and difficulties in access for unrepresented and lower income parties.

Special attention has been drawn to cases involving custody disputes. There are dramatic differences across the state in the costs of custody evaluators, which are beyond the means of many, many parties – who nonetheless need their services.

There are many reports of custody being awarded to accused sexual or violent abusers, sometimes due to the use, or abuse, of claims parental alienation syndrome (PAS).

PAS is an increasingly controversial theory that one parent sometimes turns children against the other parent. PAS is not recognized by the legitimate, organized psychological or psychiatric community and some legislators propose barring its use in family court.

Other legislators propose allowing children to testify themselves in family court cases, having the courts absorb the costs of custody evaluations rather than parents, and requiring custody evaluators to have specific training in child sexual abuse.

Read more in this Capitol Weekly article: Several bills seek to reform family courts.