Massachusetts Can't Look at DCF Files in Child Custody Cases

In the family court arena, the Department of Children and Families (DCF) has been helpful to some and an obstruction/destruction to others. Where mothers have reported suspected or actual abuse by the father, sometimes DCF comes in an substantiates the abuse and therefore provides evidence to the court that the mother may not have had or been able to obtain on her own. Sometimes it isn't the mother who reports the abuse, but the school system or other mandated reported, or possibly an anonymous reporter.

If the mother does NOT report it, sometimes it is best because DCF has been infiltrated and trained by folks (like Dr. Amy J. Baker) who harbor ideas and theories that promote mothers being blamed for their own actions, or lack of actions, or actions of her children (Read Failing to Report and Reporting to Fail and The System Sends Mixed Messages to Victims). Cases in which DCF has marked as unsubstantiated have been purposefully confused by fathers and their attorneys as evidence of lack of abuse or even fraud on the part of the mother. This is where the theory of parental alienation makes its entry.

In the State of Florida, DCF has continuously proven not only its ineptitude, but its sheer dangerousness in failing to protect victims of family violence. Family violence and homicide is an an all time high in this state with DCF cases taking the credit in many of the top murder-suicides.

So is DCF a friend, or a foe? And is what is happening in Massachusetts helpful, or harmful?

A brief background on Massachusetts--fathers label it as the most unfriendly father-in-family-court state. Fathers groups have been lobbying hard to get things changed--talking to the governor and congresspersons and making deals. And so a Mass court has decided that as far as child custody and visitation is concerned, judges are no longer allowed to secure information from DCF because the information is incomplete, and also because the parent(s) do not know what information is being passed. You decide who this benefits or harms:

Court ruling regarding child-custody cases in Massachusetts hailed as victory for parents

Buffy Spencer, The Republican

SPRINGFIELD – A recent decision by the state’s highest court in a case which challenged practices used in child-custody cases in Hampden Probate Court is a victory for parents, says an administrator of a regional legal services agency.

The state Supreme Judicial Court ruled that certain practices (“protocols”) relied upon by family court judges in Hampden Probate Court in child-related cases, such as those involving temporary visitation and custody, violated the due process rights of parents in those cases, according to Colleen Sullivan, managing attorney for Western Massachusetts Legal Services.

In 2006, Western Massachusetts Legal Services brought a lawsuit challenging the protocols which permitted judges to gather information in cases where there was state Department of Children and Families involvement. The practices included having court personnel simply call the state agency and get an oral summary of information in a file, without the parents’ knowledge of what information was being transmitted, Sullivan said.

The practice allowed for the possibility of incomplete, inaccurate or unreliable information being given to the judge, who would then rely in part on such information to make decisions on issues such as temporary visitation, guardianship or custody, she said.

Sullivan said Western Massachusetts Legal Services has always recognized that Probate Court judges grapple with very difficult issues and are guided by the best interests of the child.

But Western Massachusetts Legal Services also recognized that the protocols left room for serious errors in important decisions about family life, she said.

The Supreme Court acknowledged the difficulties that judges face in making such determinations, but found that the constitutional due process protections of parents here to have only complete, reliable and accurate information be considered by judges is paramount, Sullivan said.

The court ruled that “in the interests of justice, we exercise our broad discretion” to review the current protocols, and concluded that their use violates the due process rights of affected litigants.

The protocols can no longer be used, but the Probate Court can draft new ones that the Supreme Judicial Court’s Rules Committee will review.

Also Read: Family Court System PURPOSEFULLY Masks the Abused and the Abusers

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