A Basic Tool Kit for Grass Roots Family Court Reform

We have been asked by many people how we got MeGALalert, our Family Court and Guardian ad litem reform program, started and what beginning grassroots activists should do to get going? We grew our program, MeGALalert by stages and degrees, learning by trial and error as we grew. We quickly set two fixed goals: (1) education of the public about the need for reform of family courts and Guardians ad litem, and (2) legislation to produce change. We feel that you can’t have legislated change for these dysfunctional systems without an enlightened, aware public that will support and push for change. Legislation also requires that we educate legislators about the family court and Guardian ad litem problems, and also that we help voters connect with legislators and- as constituents/voters – express their views and their wishes. Family court systems are not anything that can be “fixed” quickly, because there are huge systemic problems and powerful internal forces that support the dysfunction of family courts, and that keep dysfunction alive, well and growing. Long ago, we were instructed by one sophisticated lawyer: “Follow the money!”

What we are outlining is a well planned systems intervention in a massive system, and it cannot be done quickly or without a well designed strategy and tactics, nor can these be effective without tools for intervention in all parts of the system. Obviously, this is a complex undertaking. We are always glad to share our thoughts and our approach, but to do so would take more than a simple, single blog posting. We’ll start by giving a brief list of important generic systems intervention “must have” “tools” that you may find useful in changing family court systems:

1. A blog or two (or more) with different focuses that will serve multiple purposes: give news, present issues and problems, make proposals for change and allow for public “conversations”.

2. A Facebook page dedicated to court reform in your state, which can present more short-term “reform news” and sharing.

3. Building a base of credible political supporters, larger numbers of both friends and “victims” of the family court system. E-mail addresses (and list-servs) for this group are critical, precious, invaluable . One rule to follow: ALWAYS BLIND COPY (bcc) MASS MAILINGS FOR PRIVACY). Telephone numbers and physical addresses are useful also. We started with our family court story (disaster) in a local weekly paper that got the attention of other family court “victims” who contacted us – and the rest is history as the numbers grew and grew.

4. Once you get stared, a core group of friends with a “work ethic”, who can be counted on to help with some of the “heavy lifting”. Volunteer manpower, which can stay on top of what’s happening in state government that may impact on users of family courts.

5. Getting to know your State Rep and State Senator and continuously educating them on the court reform issues is critical. Getting to know other legislators, especially those who have gone through divorce and custody horrors. “Victims” of family courts in the legislature are “golden”. You also need to know which legislators are your enemies and “frenemies” , Which legislators will sabotage your efforts and support the ‘status quo’? HINT: look for legislators who are lawyers!

6. Getting to know your state Governor and your Chief Justice.   Governors can submit bills and can veto bills, but they too need education. Justices often want changes in the courts but they are constrained by their political base: the state bar and state lawyers who live handsomely off of family courts. They hear appeals form family courts and their judgments become case law.

7. Building relations with the all elements of the media. Know reporters, feed them stories. Many court reporters are intimidated about journalistically challenging the courts and getting “shut out” of court news thereafter, but sometimes your news may tempt them out of timidity. Small, local, weekly papers, we find, are most open to reporting our experience – and people do read them. Give them stories. This got us going. Don’t forget social media in all of its many forms.

8. Organize intimate, small showings of “Divorce Corp“, the DVD, it is very educational, packs a punch and ought to be a “must see” for legislators and government decision makers. It is a great “tool” for quick information and attitude change.

9. Make your most important goal: public education about the largely unknown scandal that is family courts in America. Without extensive education of the public you go nowhere.

10. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Keep everyone who writes to support you in the loop, up on the news – good and bad. Answer ALL e-mails asap.

11. Don’t worry about money or setting up a nonprofit. We’ve done it with no money and no corporation. Money and non-profits have their own problems and politics. We’ve done it with PEOPLE, who are FRIENDS. The most successful movement that produced massive political change was created by Vaclav Havel, former, Czech president, Nobel prize winner, writer and political dissident.

Finally, don’t be discouraged by setbacks. It is going to be a long term project. Family courts have solid support of a huge, wealthy industry ($50 billion), the “divorce industry”, these lawyers, like the “robber barons” of old, are not going to yield quickly or easily. But … we have human and moral “right” on our side, and, once we connect, there are more of US than there are of THEM! Vaclav Havel called it “The power of the powerless”.

In the long run, if we keep at it , like others before us who fought injustice…

“WE SHALL OVERCOME … SOMEDAY…”

MeGALalert can be reached by emailing us at MeGALalert@gmail.com or by finding us on Facebook. There is no magic bullet that can be used to help you with the issues you and your family are facing. We offer support and help in dealing with the family court system.

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