Thursday, May 7, 2009

Parenting Advice Provided in DV Injunction Court

Judge Alice Blackwell knows how to conduct injunction hearings better than any other judge I've watched over the past 2 years. She walks the participants through the process, letting them know up front what to expect and what will be required of them. She alerts them to the fact that the hearing is being audio recorded and advises everyone that if a criminal case is pending, anything they say in her courtroom could be used against them. She asks probing questions, explains why she can't listen to hearsay, and gets to the facts she needs to make an informed decision efficiently. She also, on occasion, has had to train attorneys about proper protocol in this specialized court.

I saw a case this morning where the Petitioner wasn't quite sure whether or not she was genuinely fearful of the Respondent. He had threatened to do some property damage and she didn't want him to come to her place of employment and make a scene. The Respondent filled in the rest of the story - asserting that the Petitioner had threatened to have her boyfriend beat him up. He recounted that when she started yelling at him, he "naturally" yelled back at her.

Judge Blackwell thoroughly explained to the Petitioner why she couldn't grant the injunction - that these court orders are meant to protect people who are in fear of imminent danger. She encouraged her to re-file if circumstances changed, but the Petitioner's equivocation about whether or not she was fearful had to be a key factor in her decision.

The judge then shared some wisdom about co-parenting with the parties. She was concerned that dad "naturally" responded to yelling with yelling. She told him that the best way to honor his daughter, even though he and mom don't love each other anymore, was to treat the child's mother the way he wants a man to treat his daughter when she grows up. The judge then told mom that her daughter was learning how to treat a man by the way she treats her child's father.

I hope both parties think beyond their own hurt and anger and put their daughter first, before their situation escalates into one that truly needs an injunction.

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