Did you know that in WV parents who have abused, neglected or abandoned their children have more rights in a courtroom than fit parents do? It makes no sense, but it’s true. A fit parent with no allegations of abuse, neglect, or abandonment can lose the right to contact with his or her child, without any legal assistance, while an abusive parent can qualify for improvement periods and gets public assistance to help maintain their rights.

Sound fair to you?

In addition, Family Court judges have little training, and while some are thoughtful, experienced individuals who do good work, the truth is that you don’t need to have any experience with family law to become a family court judge. After five years practicing law in WV—any sort of law—the state considers you qualified to make decisions about the best interests of our children.  You can run if you’re a bankruptcy lawyer, or a personal injury lawyer. You can run if you practice aviation law. In fact, you can be a “transactional” attorney, meaning that you may never have even been in a courtroom before, because your experience is with research, or writing/reviewing documents.

Additionally, oversight and transparency are lacking. A judge can literally tell you he’s “sick and tired of dealing with teenagers” and even demean you or your children in an unprofessional manner… but that abuse can all be off-record. You won’t have the ability to send a recording of the abuse to the judicial review board, because judges can determine when to turn the A/V recorder in the courtroom off and on. In many cases, it is widely known that this goes on… but it’s allowed to continue. [Edit: if those links won’t load, you can view archived pages here and here, respectively.] There is no requirement that the recorder be turned on at all times when people are present in the room. The judge can curse you to hell and back as soon as you step in… and turn on the recorder afterwards. Convenient!

And because proceedings in Family Court are considered confidential, you can be found in contempt if you share what did make it onto a recording. If you think that’s just a matter or protecting the identities of the parties involved—think again!  You can’t even have a journalist present to witness and report on irregularities in your WV Family Court hearingno matter how glaring—even if keeping identities confidential for the parties. You can’t make your own recording unless given special permission. But judges likely to create problems because they don’t understand the law are not likely to permit that, are they?

The bottom line is that the WV Family Court system is a ghastly mess. This is an issue of Fathers’ Rights and Mothers’ Rights, both.

 This is about the rights of children to love and be loved by both parents.

I’ll fight to bring increased transparency and oversight to WV Family Court, as well as more appropriate experience requirements and training for officers of the court. I want to make public assistance available to any parent in danger of losing contact with his or her children. I want to protect children from this sort of judicial abuse. I want to make sure abusive parents don’t have more rights than fit parents!

This is a pet issue for me; please comment below and tell me about your Family Court nightmare.