At the End of the Day

Family Court seems like the kind of place one goes when every natural means of establishing accord (or, in the alternative, emotional cease-fire) between people has collapsed. There is little sense of drama, only sad anti-climax. The attorneys seem harried, distracted, or simply tired. They seem to fall into two categories: young, just-out-of-law-school earnest types honing their advocacy skills; and slightly older, earnest Legal Aid types doing what they can to ameliorate the misery of the people who through bad judgment, bad planning, or bad luck, end up in Family Court. (JA)

This experience in court clearly showed me how difficult it is to make a real change in these troubled lives. Family Court is messy; the situations are so private and emotional. It is obvious that this is not a high status job for a lawyer or a judge. Kids need social services and, above all, they need attention. The State wants these "dangerous kids" off the streets for the public good. Well, guess what? In jail, they get worse. How does that help the future of public safety? (NM)

Although I think the court did what it could given the resources and choices it had, this observation illustrated very strikingly that many court decisions are not a resolution for most families but the beginning of a cycle that leaves children and parents feeling very disempowered and alienated from society's problem-solving mechanisms. (SuS)

Overall, I was left with the impression that Family Court, by virtue of being completely overwhelmed, has diminished respect for individual cases, at least in terms of providing a serious, clean, and professional atmosphere for proceedings that have extremely serious effects on people's lives. This is not to say that the judge's decisions reflect the same diminished respect. I saw no evidence of that. (DC)

Overall, I saw what I expected to see and it was very sad. Unfortunately, there are so many cases and not that much time; it seems virtually impossible to make sure that every outcome is the right thing. (HG)

This is really all about money. Society does not value the people who flow through Family Court. Politicians do not value the people who flow through Family Court. Except for the scribe in the restroom before me, no one cares enough about the people called to Family Court to even stand up and declare that this Emperor has no clothes. The court has been choked nearly to death. A few brave souls soldier on, but are they heroes or enablers? Certainly one afternoon in Family Court is not enough to understand this complex problem.

Best interests of the child? Keep 'em out of Family Court! Ugh. (JB)

It is a shame that the most intimate kinds of cases (cases that involve the family and loved ones) are the ones that are given the least amount of structure or privacy. I never considered becoming a family lawyer before going to Family Court, but now that I have gone I am certain I wouldn't want to be one. I admire the attorneys who endure that lifestyle. (CM)

By my observations, Family Court is different from other courts. It is much more private (as it should be), and its participants are aware that the results have great impact on the people involved —this court is changing and dictating the near and far future of many children who might not have a chance for better opportunities and a better life, or even a chance to reach their teenage years with proper education and other daily needs. It is an advocating court: it advocates for the children's benefit and attempts to find the appropriate environment in which they can be raised, with a chance toward a better future. It is a human and sensitive court because it has to be. (FS)

I found the experience to be a perfect reflection of the surroundings: grim. It's not a place where people celebrate the joyful events in their lives, like marriage, or birth of their children. It's a hospital for battered wives and abused children. A shelter and a halfway house. A drug treatment facility. It's filled with lawyers, and judges, social workers, cops, and guards, and maintenance staff, and all the people who create their jobs for them and keep them employed: the families. The mothers and fathers and their extended parts who have become broken and come to this place to get patched up. And, if I'm lucky, this place, or someplace very similar, is where I'll be coming to work. (LJ)