About Fathers

Perspectives on fathers and their children.

Documentary Paints Horrific Picture of Family Court

Intimidation, collusion, excessive litigation and billing are the norm.

In many states, marriage is as simple as buying a license and finding a mail-order minister to perform the ceremony. With a simple signature, the knot is tied. And the two newlyweds live happily ever after.

Or not.

Why shouldn't divorce be just as simple? A couple wanting to divorce would buy a divorce license, get a justice of the peace or a minister to sign it, and the divorce would be complete.

The two might need lawyers to draft a legit agreement regarding finances or custody of children, but they shouldn't need a judge and a courtroom unless they cannot agree. The often staggering costs of courtroom divorces would deter many from ever seeing a judge if they could settle the matter themselves for the cost of a parking ticket.

That point is driven home in the most graphic and unsettling way by a new documentary called Divorce Corp., shown in select theaters this month. In my review of the film at The Huffington Post, I noted its "depiction of lawlessness in the family courts -- the lack of oversight that allows judges to insert themselves in the most personal and arbitrary way into people's private lives, their relationships with their children, their finances, and even their right to express themselves privately outside of the courtroom."

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Bloggers are jailed for criticizing judges, lawyers can pursue excessive litigation without fear of retriburion, and with nobody in the courtroom under oath, untrue claims can be wielded like weapons.

Watch the trailer here, and see whether you feel the same sense of outrage that I did.

The documentary makes a good case that this terrible situation persists because divorce lawyers have the political clout to prevent reforms that would erode their income.

The system inflicts terrible punishment on anyone who gets divorced--but especially the children.

Journalist Paul Raeburn is the author of Do Fathers Matter? to be published by Scientific America/FSG in June, 2014. He is also the author of the Fathers and Families blog.

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