From the Perspective of a Family Court Judge

             Because John and Grace are considered working poor, they don’t get government funding. They can’t pay for an attorney, a court-ordered psychological evaluation, or services that are needed for their child. I have to decide what’s best for the family. I only order a $4000 psych eval in 1/3 of my cases – and that’s for families who are at high-risk and facing complex issues.

The Shortest Line pays for it.

Grace was sexually abused when she was about eight years old. Since then, she’s struggled to deal with that trauma. That’s the lens she views her world through. When her daughter became eight, Grace accused her husband of abusing their child. Police detectives and CYF investigated. They found nothing. But Grace continues to believe her child is being abused—even though the daughter is now a teenager.

‘So what happens to this child?’ I ask myself. ‘Should mom have contact with her daughter? Is she disparaging the father to the child? Can she continue to parent with the dad? Is the child better off with dad because mom can do more damage because of her anxiety? Who should get custody?’

These evaluations are so critical because I can’t talk to police, teachers, psychologists, doctors, grandparents, or agencies. I can’t review each parent’s life history to see if investigations were conducted in the past. Or what the child’s relationship with each parent is. Or if the child has contact with other family members. That’s the role of the forensic psychologist.

These evaluations make a big difference. It looks at dad’s mental health. Mom’s mental health. Relationships within the family. Where else am I going to get that information? As judge, you have to give me as much information as you can. Give me everything you have so I can determine a good and safe path for the family and the kids.

The Shortest Line has been a godsend. The lives of children are literally being changed because of their work.