“Nor shall be compelled in any criminal case be a witness against himself” These are one of the the lofty, important human rights guaranteed to all US citizens by our world famous Constitution. Yet in state after state these 5th Amendment citizen rights are being violated by family courts, the very institutions that are supposed to protect those rights. This has been going on unnoticed by many for some time and has almost become accepted as a regular way of doing business by the courts, Judges, lawyers, officers of the courts and uninformed consumers.
What Judges are condoning- whether directly or indirectly- are asking one or both people involved in a custody to sign over their rights to privacy in confidential, privileged transactions, without explaining how this confidential information will be used- for or against the party. In the example provided below, the judge has ordered the defendant to provide proof of not only the attendance of counseling, but to allow the counselor to speak with the Plaintiff on the Defendants progress.
Why is this a violation of the defendants 5th Amendment rights? There may be those who will say that the defendant has a choice. He/ she does not have to agree to follow the judge’s order. And this, in theory, would be true. In this case, however, the defendant was faced with the following:
1. He/ She was threatened with contempt of court and jail if he/ she did not comply
2. He/ She could agree with the release of information to his/ her ex and the courts without knowing how his therapy records might be used by the opposing attorney and the alienated spouse: in his favor, or against him, to argue that he/she was an unfit parent, should not have time with his/her child. He is being asked to risk testifying against himself, if his therapy records are released. Self-incrimination versus contempt of court and jail. Tough choices!
Although both choices are horrible and personally damaging, What would you do? In going to jail there is the potential of losing one’s job, having a jail record and the loss of income during jail time. These are all tangible concerns and fears. We know what the potential consequences are in going to jail.
On the other hand by agreeing to the release of information by the defendant there is no way of knowing in advance how that information is going to be used. It is impossible to give his/her “informed consent”, because it is impossible to know every possible or likely outcome of this action, and how it may affect your case. There is also no way to know that the information gained by the plaintiff and court will not be used as part of an attack by the plaintiff against the defendant. This is seen by many people as a sneaky, indirect way to get the defendant to testify against him/ herself. It is a violation of the defendants 5th Amendment rights, and it is all too frequently used by Judges that preside over family courts in custody disputes. It is also one of the many examples of how the Judicial process in family cases has corrupted itself. This process is in danger of becoming very ingrained in the system and it violates the constitutional 5th Amendment rights – to say nothing of common law principles about forcing consent.
The courts in the state are showing a lack of respect for the privileged, confidential information that is conveyed between the therapist and patient as an absolutely necessary part of therapy. In this case (as well as many others that we are aware of) under the threat of contempt of court, the defendant buckled and was forced into making a “release of information” decision that had ramifications that the Judge, plaintiff and most of all defendant had no way of knowing how it would play out. The Judge was in effect telling the defendant that he/ she would have to potentially testify against him/ her self – thus violating their rights under the constitution. The judge also unwittingly destroyed therapy by destroying the confidentiality necessary to make therapy work!
If you have had issues or if things about your case just don’t seem right with your Guardian ad litem – please contact us for support at MeGALalert@gmail.com or like us on Facebook to stay up to date on issues and events. We encourage your thoughts on this subject please feel free to respond.