SOURCE: Law Offices of Mark B. Baer

November 07, 2011 06:00 ET

Responding to Recent Violence in Custody Disputes, CA Attorney Mark Baer Advocates Consensual Dispute Resolution Methods to Help Quell Future Meltdowns

LOS ANGELES, CA--(Marketwire - Nov 7, 2011) - Responding to the recent wave of violence set off by child custody disputes, Los Angeles Family Law Attorney Mark Baer blames family law litigation, a process that fans the flames of emotion. Attorney Baer contends that those involved in family law disputes should use a form of consensual dispute resolution to handle matters more constructively and that litigation should be used only as a last resort. By doing so, he believes violent incidents such as the recent Seal Beach salon massacre can be avoided.

"We could say that 'The System' causes people to go off the deep end," notes Attorney Mark Baer, who is a family law mediator and collaborative law practitioner as well as an experienced litigator. "Everybody going through divorce or custody issues is suffering from what some call 'temporary insanity.' The question is not whether a person involved in family law litigation will act out, but the degree to which they will do so. It may involve embellishing facts, making false allegations, treating each other disrespectfully in front of the children, or attempting to damage the relationship between the child(ren) and their other parent. All these things make it difficult to co-parent, or worse, may trigger someone who's already unstable, to commit an act of violence or kidnap a child."

Explaining the process, he says, "It starts with an Order to Show Cause which is filed with the court in family law cases when the parties cannot agree on child custody issues. Declarations are submitted to the court that are nothing less than character assassinations to convince the judicial officer that the other side is completely unfit to parent -- while they are akin to Mother Theresa.

"After this process has begun, even if the parties resolve the custody matter through court-ordered mediation or otherwise, without the need for a judicial officer to make a decision, the damage has already been done. It takes an enlightened person to forgive their ex (the other parent) for the character assassination. And if the parents are able to eventually forgive each other, they would have to suffer from dementia to forget what was said about them."

However, he notes that not every case is a good match for consensual divorce resolution.

"It is my opinion that approximately 15% of cases need litigation to some degree. The approximately 3% that end up in trial come from that 15%. However, many of the other 85% are being directed into litigation from the outset because traditional litigation attorneys do not understand mediation and other forms of consensual dispute resolution. They also 'fear' that one party will not participate in the consensual dispute process in good faith and the case will ultimately wind up in litigation, thus causing the other client to incur more legal fees/costs than otherwise necessary. Those attorneys are not concerned about the fact that they are funneling many of the other 85% of cases into the litigation process unnecessarily and causing even more damage because of their 'fear' over the 15% of cases."

Unless parties agree to participate in some form of consensual dispute resolution, they are forced to litigate their case. Moreover, attorneys often fail to advise parties of the alternatives to litigation, contrary to their ethical obligations to do so.

Ultimately, nobody knows what will trigger a person to commit an act of violence. However, Baer notes that the litigation process is enough by itself to push a sane person to act inappropriately when going through a divorce with children.

To curb the cycle of violence surrounding custody cases, he believes the U.S. courts should shift to the system already being used in Australia, England, Wales and Ontario, Canada where mediation and other forms of consensual dispute resolution are the first choice for family law disputes.

However, until the laws change, Baer says individuals and couples must take the initiative to resolve their family law matters this way rather than relying on litigation, a process that does nothing but exacerbate emotions that are already intense.

Mark B. Baer has practiced law in Los Angeles for twenty years with an office in Pasadena, CA. His firm represents individuals on issues regarding family law, divorce, child custody, child support, spousal support, restraining orders, paternity actions, or domestic partnerships. For more information, please visit: www.markbaeresq.com

Contact Information

  • For more information, please contact:
    Mark B. Baer, Esq
    (626) 389-8929
    E-mail: Email Contact