If you have been through divorce then you are familiar with the rules and procedures that govern the legal process. Divorce is a civil action, and every state has rules of civil procedure.
What you don’t hear about but, have probably fallen victim to, are the unwritten family court rules. These “unwritten rules,” are the rules that define how judges and lawyers conduct themselves with each other.
These unwritten rules, the rules that define what goes on over lunch, on the golf course, and in the judge’s chambers have more to do with the outcome of a divorce case than the written rules.
It’s my opinion that when it comes to the Family Court system, the only interests served are those of divorce lawyers and Family Court Judges.
3 Unwritten Family Court Rules:
1. Lawyers and judges cover for each other.
Most judges and lawyers will not report each other for misconduct or violations of judicial ethics. Judges especially can get away with bad behavior because lawyers don’t want to get on a judge’s bad side. Lawyers know they will go before that judge again and staying chummy with the judge is more important than their client getting a high standard of care.
I have a close friend who took her ex-spouse back to court seven times to try and collect child support. She had a court order that he pay a certain amount and her attorney had requested that the judge sign an income withholding order so that her ex-spouse’s wages could be garnished.
Nearly two years later she is still waiting for the judge to sign the income withholding order and still living with her ex slow leaking child support payments to her at his whim.
What has her attorney done? Nothing, he is afraid of “pissing” the judge off. There are several legal avenues open to her attorney but he refuses to take any of them because whether or not he stays on the judge’s good side is more important than his fiduciary duty to his client.
Therein lays one of the problems with the Family Court System. How can the system hold an ex-spouse accountable when lawyers and judges who run the system can’t hold themselves and each other accountable?
2. Forced divorced settlements are the norm.
From: Divorced From Justice
“Some divorce lawyers are known to mislead clients into believing they will go to trial and then, at the last minute, force the client into settlements. This manipulative pressuring to settle is something sprung on the client in the hallway of the court after the lawyer schedules the court appearance and get the client there on the premise that she/he is going to her/his divorce trial.”
I’ve had this happen to myself and several clients that I have worked with. One lawyer I had was all talk about how we would, “show them in court.” He wasn’t happy with my ex’s behavior and led me to believe that he was ready to defend me and my rights in front of a judge.
That all changed though when we went to court. We weren’t there 10 minutes when my lawyer walked up to me with an offer to settle from the opposing counsel. I wanted a trial because I wanted the judge to hear evidence and decide what he thought was fair. In the end, I got a settlement pushed on me by a lawyer who was no longer talking tough about protecting my rights. According to him, “it was the best we were going to get, and going before the judge would only cost me more money in the end.”
As it turned out, the settlement that I accepted that morning due to my lawyer’s reversal in attitude ended up costing me $19,200 in housing costs for myself and my children.
In my opinion, what really matters is not the best interest of the child or protecting a client’s rights. What really matters is that the lawyer collected his money for doing as little work as possible and the judge got the case cleared off his docket.
If you find yourself unable to come to an agreement with your spouse and you do have to schedule a court date be wary of these hallway settlements. You hire a lawyer to protect your interests but you have to put pro-active energy into making sure those interests are truly protected.
3. Judges don’t enforce court orders.
From: Divorced From Justice
“As thousands and thousands of women looking for child support enforcement have sadly learned, judicial orders are often nothing more than worthless pieces of paper because judges deliberately won’t enforce court-ordered awards. The reluctance to enforce awards is a pervasive problem in divorce court, with extremely undermining consequences to women and children. Judges have the power to enforce awards but are typically reluctant to force men to honor their support obligations to their families because, under the law, men who don’t’ comply would have to be jailed, and judges are often highly reluctant to jail a deadbeat dad.”
It isn’t only deadbeat “dads” that get away with not paying child support; it is any non-custodial parent in possession of an order to pay child support.
What I find interesting is the fact that the majority of the custodial parents you speak with who have trouble collecting support have been to court repeatedly with no result. Their ex-spouse is not held accountable and they and their children are left to struggle due to a system that is supposed to protect them.
Below is an example of what happens in the Family Court System when trying to collect child support. The quote is taken from Faith Eggers who was going to court for the first time to get an order for child support.
“The stories I heard were awful. Every woman there, and the one man, had been there time and time again — all for child support. Every single one of them trying to collect child support from their exes. I spoke to one woman who told me this was her fifteenth time there. Five years — and she hasn’t seen a cent. I spoke to a man who told me that he’s been raising his daughter on his own since birth — she’s now thirteen — and has only received $300 from his ex.”
Some would say if a dad or mom doesn’t have the money to pay you “can’t squeeze blood from a turnip.” I have to disagree. The problem isn’t that they don’t have the money to pay. The problem is judges who refuse to throw them in jail for not paying. A few months in a dingy, small, jail cell would go a long way in motivating deadbeat parents to live up to their responsibilities to their children.
1. An order for child support is nothing but a promise on a piece of paper. Regardless of what you hear about fathers going to jail for non-payment, that rarely happens. When it comes to enforcing that child support order don’t expect much help for your local Family Court Judge.
2. If you have a court date scheduled and wish to go before a judge for a decision, stand your ground. There is no guarantee you will get a better settlement from the judge but, you will at least know you were in control of how your divorce played out.
3. Most judges and lawyers are friends outside the courtroom, especially if you live in a small community. Your lawyer knows the judge, his lawyer knows the judge and it is difficult for a judge to remain impartial if he is better buddies with one or the other of the lawyers. If you get lucky, you’ll hire the attorney the judge is BFFs with.
FAQs About Unwritten Family Court Rules:
Do the conduct of judges and lawyers influence a divorce case?
The outcome of a divorce case is not limited to the conduct of the judges and lawyers but also their interaction beyond it. What happens between judges and lawyers at lunches, golf courses and judges chambers also play a role in the outcome of a divorce case. Some conducts inside courtrooms are defined by what happens in the background.
Do judges get away with misconduct?
Judges do get away with misconduct because lawyers usually do not confront them because they know that the fate of their practice and cases hinge on their dealing with a judge.
Do divorce lawyers mislead clients?
Some divorce lawyers do mislead their clients as they have them believe that their case will go to trial, and then trick them into a settlement later.
Why do judges not force fathers to pay child support?
Family court judges have the power to send fathers to jail for not paying child support. Numerous judgments bear testimony to the fact that judges are reluctant to exercise this lawful power against fathers.
Wow..So much insight in the article..Well said and so true..Nice to know the deadbeat fathers have their back by judge and lawyers..they are well protected by law..no wonder their are so many defaulters..
The article is Spot on! Do you mind informing me of what other legal avenues her attorney could have taken? I am wondering if she could have imitated the other avenues herself if she would have been aware?
“There are several legal avenues open to her attorney but he refuses to take any of them because whether or not he stays on the judge’s good side is more important than his fiduciary duty to his client.”
I noticed a typo. I am wondering if she could have initiated the other avenues herself if she had been aware of what they were?
DivorcedMoms Staff says
Sure she could have. She could have fired her attorney and become a pro se litigant ( represented herself). There are always motions that can be filed in some situations. Most jurisdictions have pro se clinics to help those representing themselves get through the process.
The most important thing is remove the drama and take a realistic look at what you’re entitled to. It’s pretty cut and dry. The only benefit to litigation is for the lawyers getting paid. And pro se representation is not a solution for most.
I am a dad forced to pay my ex wife $2,025 a month because she refuses to work even though she has a MA degree and two licenses as a school counselor (frightening) and MFT (even more frightening). She has been arrested for $190 of stuff she packed under the stroller when we were married..my daughter was in the stroller..she is addiched to oxycodone and sleeps all day, has 5 DCFS complaints by 5 different people and never worked a day in her life and married a millionaire after I divorced her. She lied in court and told the judge he was a “boyfriend” (who spent $100,000 on a team of attorneys for her)…some boyfriend huh? Judge was so biased for the “poor single mom”..the law says both parents need to provide financial support for their children. In California, you can have a confidential marriage which ensures nobody can know you are married..only a judge can order the truth to come out, but of course they would never do that to a poor single mom living in a $2 million house. Because I work as a school administrator, if I chose to stop paying the child support, they would garnish my wages, take my drivers license away etc..My ex? She doesn’t spend ANY of the child support on our 2 girls, she lives off the child support as if it was alimony..all while living free in the mansion with a maid twice a week, pool boy and gardener, while I struggle to afford to live.
How do you get rid of a corrupt judge that gave a non biological man never married to mother of a 2 year old child. And the man has been arrested for drugs multiple times. I have been fighting to terminate his rights for 4 years and have gotten nowhere.
Brandi Ivey says
Question? What do you do when your daughter leaves her abuser and family in a small town. She left May 7th 2020 the next day his mother filed a Witt order against my daughter who took the 2 month old baby and my 4 yr old granddaughter away from this family due to her husbands abuse to her and my granddaughter, his sister and him even threating at the time my unborn granddaughter they would kill her, Now this Judge had order this man and his mother to have custody was granted a Witt protective order against my daughter had the police come to my house and got my 2 month old granddaughter from my daughter and 4 yr old granddaughter. As they both fail to the floor crying my 4 yr old granddaughter not understanding why her sister is being taken away to go back to the vary family who bullied my daughter and when my daughter fought back to protect her daughters this Judge in a small town in Texas has managed to give custody to this man and his family, My daughter and granddaughter has only seen my granddaughter 6 times in a year. she is 18 months they have managed to keep my Granddaughter from seeing her baby sister also my daughter this Judge is friends with the family and there Attorney Judge or Ex husband has NOT accepted my daughters Evidence against the father and his Family. Her rights as a mother have been taken away she has gotten Attorneys who 1st one was a County Judge and had health problems, 2nd Attorney pulled out 3rd Attorney tried to fight and got shut down anytime he wanted to bring evidence against her ex husband and Family. Now they said my daughter has to take a Sychological exam that cost $5000 that they order Take it in Mind she was emotional during this time as she left her abuser, Not only that she lost a baby a year before she had my 2 month old granddaughter, at the time, I’m not saying my daughter is not in the wrong yes she argued with him yes she Fought back, however her ex husband Family managed to use the police reports i had at our house from the pass of our teenagers fighting and helping our grown kids by allowing them to stay with us and not be homeless just to be cussed out and having to have them removed. It’s Funny how her ex husbands Attorney failed to tell the Judge when my Husband and I were at work , Him my daughters her sister who has Asburgers he had got in her face and threaten to kill her because she was trying to protect my other daughter who was pregnant with my sweet granddaughter that they took from my daughter. The police was called on Him, also we had proof that the police was called on him for threating my daughter who was pregnant with my granddaughter due to him saying in the back ground when i was on the phone with her he would kill her and my unborn granddaughter then the phone hung up, i had to call the police in KiIleen Tx where he was station, often times when the abused happen he would tell my daughter if you call the police on me or report to my commander, I will have your daughter taken away and my mom and i will get custody of our daughter. So she wouldn’t call in fear, Now she leaves and look what happen his brother was the Sheriff too. And NOW THAT THE JUDGE has GRANTED HIM CUSTODY my daughter has been trying to get visitation and they managed to get the Judge to signed off she has to pay $2500 of the Sychlogical exam in order to see her daughter when they order it. No one work with her instead the Judge and his Attorney shut her down on evidence she had against him and his family only to get slandered on Social media by his sister Sheriff brother her ex husband girlfriend taking pictures with her daughter with the sister that had threating my granddaughter when she was unborn they did this out of spite. Now my daughter has gone though health problems my now 5 yr old granddaughter crying signing (My Fight Song in Hopes she get her sister back) Please if anyone can help!!!!! Thank you for reading
This is exactly what happened to me. I was a disabled, 55 year old mother who had been unable to work for 16 years and was forced into a settlement that left me with no income, nothing, by an unethical lawyer who told me that if I didn’t sign, my abusive ex would continue to abuse our child. He also threatened and intimidated me by punching the courthouse wall and demanding I sign. This lawyer imputed an income to me by telling me it was “required” and based my ex’s child support on an imaginary income of $60,000, when in reality he makes over six figures. And this is exactly why I am suing this lawyer for malpractice and discrimination. I’ve actually found other women who had similar stories and in fact, one, who was worth millions while married, ended up in a homeless shelter with her two children. She was an immigrant who did not speak English well and he took advantage of this. The advice I can give right now is EDUCATE yourself and NEVER sign anything unless you have at least a day, and perhaps another lawyer, to look it over. I knew nothing about the divorce process. I learned a lot now, a little too late.
It really sucks that the involved fathers are extorted while deadbeats are allowed to roam free. Custody order violations are rarely held in contempt either. Not just child support. I would rather have support problems not be addressed than custody/parenting time and decision violations not be addressed. Anyway, yeah this article is dead on with how the orders are just a piece of paper. They are as much use as an ex parte/protection order, which equates to nothing but a false sense of security, if you do not know any better. Abusers win in this industry.
You are exactly right! I’ve paid $3289 in child support for four years and only get 17 hours a week with no overnights. Giving me 50-50 parenting time would significantly reduce my child support. Hence, the reason the opposing counselor, my ex-wife, custodial, evaluator, and the judge has allowed these delays to take place. This system is completely biased against men and absolutely insane! I do not support deadbeat parents, but I also do not support parents that intentionally use children as pawns to garner more income.
This is all horrible advice