The Florida Court’s Long Range Strategic Planning Workgroup recently solicited comments from the public to assist in its mission to set goals and priorities for the coming years. Here are our comments to the Workgroup, submitted online earlier today:

Dear Long Range Strategic Planning Workgroup: An area needing improvement in Florida’s courts concerns judicial training and education in quickly recognizing and properly handling cases in which one or both parties is committing “legal abuse” against the other.

For the purposes of these comments, we use the term “legal abuse” to describe a litigant’s use of the courts for a purpose other than a proper judicial function. More specifically, our focus is on those cases in which there is a history of domestic abuse which appears to be continuing in the family law arena. In such cases, the abusive spouse or partner avails him- or herself of the courts to harass, oppress, intimidate and otherwise injure the former spouse or partner.

According to Sandra Brown, M.A., CEO of the Institute for Relational Harm Reduction and Public Pathology Education, “Courts are perfect platforms for abusers to maintain contact, cause victims to emotionally disintegrate by having to go back through the court system and face the very person who has harmed them in the past.”

When judges fail to recognize when the courts are being used to abuse others, judges allow courts to be co-opted and used as taxpayer-funded weapons. The fallout for the parties who are the targets of abuse can be severe, and often results in symptoms of post-traumatic stress.

There is ample neuroscience available today to educate the public about the personalities of abuse perpetrators. Decades of family law jurisprudence provides us with a plethora of horror stories, bearing the imprimatur of official judicial acceptance of the abuse tactics and abusers’ goals. We can study the neuroscience and the cases and draw from them lessons to guide our judiciary.

LawYou America, Inc. publishes these stories to bring attention to the problem. We also are partnering with the Institute for Relational Harm Reduction to create a judicial education program that will arm our judiciary with the tools necessary to prevent the courts from being used as weapons of continued abuse. We invite you to visit our website and to contact us for further information.

Respectfully submitted,
Sherri Renner
Florida-licensed Attorney
LawYou America, Inc.

We look forward to working with the judiciary to educate judges so we can relegate this pernicious form of legal abuse to the ash heap of history.

3 Responses

  1. Is there any update on your recommendations? I just found this site, haven’t told my story but have learned from experience that Florida courts have to be one of the worst in even taking abuse seriously. I actually had a judge deny my motion for an injunction against my ex after he was seen parked oitside my work atv3 am the same time i left 3 times in 2 weeks because i wasnt allowed to provide evidence of past abuse and reason i had to fear him because my incompetant attorney didnt bring abuse up in mediation! I think the worst is once put of the direct relationship there is nothing in place to help those abused recover anything they “gave away” because they went strong enough at the time to defend themselves.

    1. Angelina, thank you for taking the time to comment. I have not been contacted by the Workgroup, nor have I read anything in the Florida Bar publications about judicial education about abuse tactics. So, no, there have been no updates of which I am aware.

      Your idea about the need for a legal mechanism through which abuse survivors can recover property or rights they gave away while they were in a state of psychological trauma caused by the abuse is excellent. While I believe there are some legal theories that could be used in such situations already (but a procedure specifically for situations such as yours would be better), these would entail additional litigation against the abuser, which undoubtedly would expose the survivor to additional abuse.

      I am going to study the issue, Angelina, and will keep you posted on what we come up with and any steps we take because of your comment.

      1. Thanks Sherri,
        The system literally devistated me financially and psychologically. Im probably an extreme example of whats wrong with it though. After 30 yrs of marriage my ex took millions, leaving me with nothing but bills and no alimony. Most if not all the fault of my own attorney who allowed my ex to attack me daily in some fashion until I had PTSD and couldnt see he (attorney) wasnt doing his job or even comprehend what happened in mediation. My attorney never brought any abuse up though my husband only moved from the house or faced DV charges after attacking, almost strangling me to death at one point. Nieve, believing if I could just get it in front of a judge they would fix everything I spent what I could gather on attorneys to do so only to be denied as most was do to my attorneys negligence (so I pay the price). Other fraud evidence wasnt even addressed by the judge. I was drug thru the mud by witnesses falsely testifying I was a drug addict and “mentally unstable”(rumors my ex and his followers spread while divorcing). (A former assistant, fired after caught stealing said I took 15 antipsychotics daily!). Even IF this had been true had nothing to do with the case and IF true I should never have been responsible for what I signed! My ex then filed contempt I had to pay to defend myself against for not paying half the taxes on what HE took in divorce, my attorney told me to agree to. Judge ordered me to pay him $500 a month though my income showed I had $7.00 a month left after basics and on foodstamps. Needless to say I was soon served with a motion to enforce as I couldnt pay. Before even heard Im served another contempt motion stating I wouldnt provide an accounting and was keeping all money from a shared rental property I had been caring for due to no one doing it. Caring of it wasnt addressed in settlement therefore not contempt – but cost me 3500 in legal fees to dismiss. Those are just highlights – not all. I feel degraded even raped at some points, tired. After all this time malpractice against my attorney will be heard. Its a strong case – but so was the fraud against my ex. I no longer trust justice and just pray to get thru it.

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