How do you put a face on what it means to have an equal opportunity for access to civil justice?
That’s difficult — but the Feb. 15 edition of The Florida Bar News attempts to do just that in their article…
“Putting a human face on the civil legal access gap:
Access Commission learns how the system is broken”
Look no further than the story of Miami’s Maria Garcia, said Commission member and Third DCA Clerk of Court Mary Cay Blanks during a recent January Commission meeting. Garcia was fired from her job of 15 years, denied benefits and didn’t know where to turn. When she visited Blanks’ office to file an appeal, the attendant simply handed her forms and wasn’t permitted — by law — to give her any legal advice. Unable to afford a lawyer, Ms. Garcia left feeling frustrated and unsure of what step to take next, as if the system had failed her. That has to change, said Blanks.
“The challenge we face in my office is being able to assist them in a meaningful way without crossing that line of giving out too much information and worrying about the unauthorized practice of law,” Blanks told the Commission. “So we err on the side of giving less information because we don’t want to cross that line. The perception is that we’re unhelpful; it causes a lot of people leaving the office disgruntled, and feeling like they are not getting their day in court, or we’re not going to help them get their day in court.”
Parentectomy is the removal, erasure, or severe diminution of a caring parent in a child’s life, following separation or divorce.
Parentectomy covers a large range of parent removal from partial parentectomy, “You may visit your Daddy or Mommy every other Sunday”; to total parentectomy, as in Parental Alienation Syndrome, described by Gardner; or complete parent absence or removal. The victims of parentectomy are the children and the parents so severed from each other’s lives. A parentectomy is the most cruel infringement upon children’s rights to be carried out against human children by human adults. Parentectomies are psychologically lethal to children and parents.
In the worst consequential wake of a parentectomy , the victim parent gives up and walks away from the surgically-minded adults and the victim children. When this happens, the victim parent walks away from the chronic warring battlefield with intense ambivalence and confusion, faced with an insoluble dilemma. He or she knows that the chronic war in which one parent tries to erase the other parent, and the other parent struggles to stave off the parentectomy, is itself destructive to the children, as it causes ongoing tension and stress in them, as well as in the ongoing interaction between the children and each of their parents. On the other hand, if a mother or father gives up and walks away from the war, the children feel abandoned by a loved and needed parent, and unusually resent and become depressed over the abandonment.
Although children hate fighting and pray for it to stop, they misinterpret a parent’s giving up the fight as that parent’s not caring enough about them. Yet, clinicians know that, in these cases, even when a father or mother gives up the battle for custody, it is hardly ever due to not caring for their children enough. Rather, they give up the fight because they are emotionally depleted, physically exhausted, worn out, depressed or financially drained; they don’t want to continue to subject their children to the relentless warring; they discover that they have little chance of success against a prejudiced legal/judicial system, and little chance of success against a prejudiced, incompetent or skillful “hired gun” – mental health professional, who has been paid to facilitate a parentectomy. Unfortunately, for the right price, such psychological surgeons can be found.
Many parents, mental health clinicians, and attorneys have had contact with the process of parentectomy as a victim or as someone close to a victim. Professionals must guide victims or potential victims through the maze of legal, judicial, mental health and family processes which can lead to the radical “surgery” of parent-erasure I call parentectomy. Attempts at parentectomy create a psychological reign of terror, for the intended parent and child-victims. Those victims who survive are emotionally bloodied, bitter, war-torn, and exhausted. They often form and join support groups with committed and caring persons in organisations to protect their children and themselves, or to help others to protect their children and themselves from the dreaded sequelae of parentectomy. Most parentectomy victims and most of those who try to help such victims, experience a great deal of chronic emotional pain.
I wish there were a panacea to help reduce that pain. There is not. The author has shared his experience and thinking around children and parents of divorce, in the hope that increased understanding of the dynamics behind parentectomy, will help clinicians, attorneys, judges and parents eradicate this most dreaded, malevolent and destructive affliction of parents and children who love, care for and need each other.