Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Recipe for Future Conflict

I monitored several injunction hearings today in Judge Theotis Bronson's court, and one struck me as headed for disaster. The participants are currently married to one another and have a five month old child. The judge did grant a 6-month injunction, but then failed to work out all the issues that need to be addressed so that the Respondent (dad) could visit his child without having to come into contact with the Petitioner (mom).

Judge Bronson, although doubtful about its accuracy, accepted the father's representation that the Ocoee Police Department would serve as a monitored exchange location (from his testimony, it sounded as if the patrol officer who responded to the 911 call told him they would do it - I'm not familiar with any police department serving in this capacity on a regular basis, though it would be wonderful if they did).

The judge failed to fully explain what "no contact" means. In addition to not going near the Petitioner's home/workplace, the Respondent is not permitted to call/email/text her nor is he to have someone contact her on his behalf. The only exception is to have the judge designate a third party for them to communicate about their child. Judge Bronson did order child support, but failed to work out a schedule for visits with the child. After the hearing had concluded and the mother had left the courtroom to wait for her paperwork, the father asked the judge when he could see his child. The mother had to be brought back into the courtroom and a schedule was arranged. The judge even commented that he was doubtful the police would monitor the exchanges and that if it needs to be changed, the parties will have to come back to court to do so.

The judge also did not remind the parties that the injunction is only a temporary order. For these issues to be fully addressed until their child is 18, they need to file for a dissolution of marriage. He failed to ask if either party has done so. What happens in six months?

It seemed to me and the volunteer I was training that Judge Bronson was rushing through this case (it lasted about 20 minutes). In addition to only granting the injunction for 6 months (most other judges grant them for a year), his expectation that they'll come back to court if it doesn't work out with the police department is unrealistic. Most people are not able or willing to take half a day off from work to attend a hearing for which they have to wait 2 weeks. The likelihood is that they'll violate the "no contact" requirement of the injunction in order to take care of visitation issues.

As I said, this case is a recipe for future conflict which will serve to victimize all parties, but most especially the child.

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