Monday, December 17, 2012

If I Were King Part II

If I were king, I would change the law that prohibits a judge from granting time-limited maintenance. Under the current scheme, a trial judge may not order maintenance for a term certain; rather, all awards are subject to a review and/or modification.

Philosophically, I am a judicial discretionist. I generally believe that it is best to give judges flexibility in crafting fair solutions. And each case is unique. Many times it would make sense, for example in a short marriage, to grant one or two years of maintenance without keeping the door open for extensions down the road. Or, what about the situation where the husband has been paying for ten years and the judge really doesn’t want to end it outright but wants to give the ex-wife a lump sum payout instead? Theoretically, under the current scheme, the trial judge may not do this and must keep the maintenance open-ended.

For the most part we are blessed with smart and fair judges.  Don’t tie their hands. Give them the power to do the right thing, and they usually will. And when they don’t, that’s why we have appellate courts.

Friday, December 7, 2012


"True, we build no bridges. We raise no towers. We construct no engines. We paint no pictures- unless as amateurs for our own amusement. There is little of all that we do that the eye of man can see. But we smooth out difficulties; we relieve stress; we correct mistakes; we take up other men's burdens and by our efforts we make possible the peaceful life of men in a peaceful state."

- John W. Davis

Monday, December 3, 2012

Conflict Diagnostics and Improving Kane County Family Court

Ron Ramer (a trained mediator and educator) and I spent the past several years developing a program to help Kane County family court work more efficiently and concentrate resources where needed. We pitched the program to the Kane County Bar Association family law committee. Unfortunately the committee rejected this concept, largely because of a few vocal opponents to change; but it really is an idea worth exploring.

Here is how the program would work. The parties and their attorneys would meet with a facilitator early in the case and the facilitator would “diagnose” the level of conflict. The facilitator would categorize the conflict as follows:

  •    Low conflict: the parties were amicable and could agree on the most of the issue
  •    Medium conflict: the parties were reasonable and while no agreement was imminent, mediation or negotiation would likely conclude the case
  •    High conflict: For any number of reasons, the case was   volatile, very contentious and would need ample court resources

The facilitator, after diagnosing the conflict, would report to the trial judge who could better allocate resources to those in the high conflict range. The added benefit of the program is that the court could insist that the low conflict cases conclude more quickly, freeing up resources to concentrate on the higher conflict families.   By freeing up space on the docket, the court could micromanage the high conflict cases and move those cases through the system more promptly. Children are victims of their parent’s conflict, and accelerating the process will help these children start healing sooner.

It is too bad that the KCBA family law committee did not recognize the importance of this worthy goal.  I am working on article that will discuss this concept in more detail.