I have a tremendous respect for the legal system. An independent justice system operating under the rule of law is a foundational pillar of democracy and human rights.
Any “system” will be inhabited by people, and people are fallible. Our justice system, independent and operating on principles of fairness and the rule of law, represents a significant advance in human rights.
It doesn’t always work, and I would cite Dred Scott to end debate on that. Courts sometimes make flawed decisions.
Our system of justice does correct itself, and that is key to understanding a free system of justice governed by the rule of law, it grows and changes.
It grows through the laws it receives from our legislatures elected by the people, and it grows in its increasing discernment of the core principles it applies.
Separating children from parents is never a good thing, we need to fix things in parent-child relationships, not sever them.
Magistrates intruding into the family to separate children from parents should be limited to child protection factors. Differing cultural values in parenting, personal values in parenting, and religious values in parenting should all be respected by the court.
If parenting practices are not dangerous to the child, then there is no legal justification for separating children from parents. Courts should not be in the role of evaluating which parents “deserve” to be parents.
Imagine in 1930s Germany if the courts had separated children from Jewish parents because the court determined that being raised by Aryan parents was in the “best interests” of the child. Or if courts decided that in mixed-race families, it was in the “best interests” of the child to be raised by White parents because a European cultural experience was in the “best interests” for the child. We do not intrude on the rights of parents to raise their children as they see fit – within the limits of child abuse.
Parenting practices that are dangerous to the child, and which require court intervention to protect the child, should receive a corresponding DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Abuse made by a mental health professional (V995.54 Child Physical Abuse, V995.53 Child Sexual Abuse, V995.52 Child Neglect, V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse). Courts act on evidence, not allegations.
The child is making allegations of being “victimized” by the problematic parenting of the targeted parent. Haven’t we been through this “child allegation” phase in the Salem witch trials? Haven’t we learned about the importance of evidence in the courts? If there are allegations of “abusive” parenting practices, we should have the allegation assessed and a DSM-5 diagnosis of child abuse made by a mental health professional. That is the evidence of child abuse – the DSM-5 diagnosis made by a mental health professional.
Without a corresponding DSM-5 diagnosis of child abuse, there is no justification for separating a child from a parent.
We do not separate children from parents because a parent took the child’s iPhone away as a discipline practice, or because the parent became angry at the child for child disrespect. We intrude into the family and the rights of parents to establish their cultural, religious, and personal values with their children ONLY to protect children from child abuse.
If there is child abuse, then the court’s action to protect children should be accompanied by a DSM-5 diagnosis of child abuse.
V995.54 Child Physical Abuse (p. 717)
V995.53 Child Sexual Abuse (p. 718)
V995.52 Child Neglect (p. 718)
V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse (p. 719)
There are two primary post-divorce custody visitation schedules, 1) equal shared parenting (50-50%), and 2) every-other weekend to one parent and primary weekday time to the other parent. A variety of factors can impact the selection between these two primary custody visitation schedules. These are the two basic schedules for post-divorce visitation.
Any restriction on parent-child time that restricts parenting below the every-other-weekend schedule would need justification for restricting a parent’s access to and involvement with the child and would involve child protection concerns. Child protection concerns should be accompanied by a corresponding DSM-5 diagnosis of child abuse – the evidence to support the court’s decision that the child requires protection from a parent.
For the legal system, allegations are allegations until they are proven. If there are allegations of child protection concerns, then these allegations should receive a proper professional assessment that will provide the evidence to make decisions. If there is a DSM-5 diagnosis of child abuse, then action by the court to protect the child is warranted. If there is no DSM-5 diagnosis of child abuse, the family conflict is a treatment-related issue that does not require the court to alter custody and visitation schedules.
“We need to listen to the child” – Salem witch trials.
The court acts on evidence, not allegations. If there are allegations of child protection concerns, then these allegations need to be confirmed by a DSM-5 diagnosis of child abuse made by a mental health professional. The court acts on evidence, not allegations.
Children’s reporting of symptoms and their interpretation of situations is not always accurate, and can be influenced – Salem witch trials – the psychological control of children (Barber).
That’s why we have the DSM-5 diagnostic system. That’s why we have a legal system based on evidence and the rule of law. Allegations are not evidence. Allegations should be properly assessed, and if child protection concerns exist then there should be a corresponding DSM-5 diagnosis of child abuse.
Without child protection concerns, there is no justification to restrict parental access to, and parenting with, their child consistent with the parents cultural values, personal values, and religious values.
Courts should not determine which parents “deserve” to be parents based on vague criteria and vague allegations.
Magistrates and judges should not be separating children from parents except in cases of child abuse. Separating children from parents is never a good thing.
If there is conflict, we fix it. That’s a therapy issue, not a legal issue.
Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 18857