FAMILY LAW IMPROVEMENTS

Ms. Faye Cohen , Esquire
May 29, 2012 — 942 views  

This morning as I was driving by a fire station, there was a handsome young firefighter speaking to a group of small children, who were dressed neatly in white, beige and blue uniforms. They were listening to him with rapt attention and the scene was touching because it conveyed all of the joy, innocence, and enthusiasm of youth.

I compared that scene to the scene in Philadelphia’s Family Court, where I spent a good part of the prior day. Hundreds of people, usually low income and minorities, spend hours and hours waiting in a large room until their cases are called. These members of society are the least able to afford to lose income by taking time off of work or taking off time to seek work waiting and waiting and waiting. When one looks around the room, it is a sad sight of a mass of humanity waiting for an overburdened court system, to govern their lives and families.

The case I was involved in resulted from allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct by a child toward his sibling. The family consisted of 5 children. That conduct was reported to the Department of Human Services. That report set in motion a process which involves numerous individuals who are appointed by the court to monitor, oversee, analyze, and represent various members of the family. This doesn’t include the judge and other members of the court system involved in monitoring and scheduling these type of cases. In this case four of the children have been sent to foster homes, and the fifth child is living with his great-grandmother. The parents’ rights are in the process of being terminated, and one of the childrens’ aunts who lives in another state is seeking to adopt them. I represent the maternal grandmother. Although each case is different, the pattern is similar. The pattern involves spending large amounts of money in a system which is very slow and ponderous. The persons who are being paid by the system include representatives of various agencies, child advocates, court-appointed lawyers for the parents, social workers, attorneys for the children, therapists, case workers, foster parents, and various agencies offering services. When one is involved in the system one cannot help but wonder if there is not a better, efficient, less emotionally taxing and far less expensive way of assisting these families, many of whom are impoverished and lacking in education and life’s skills. Yet, no one seems to have been able to suggest and/or implement such a system. And one wonders who would be interested in doing so, as most likely it is not individuals who are being paid by the system. Of the cases I have been involved in I am the only one being paid privately; everyone else is being paid by the taxpayers, which includes me. I am not suggesting that people involved in the system are overpaid, as that is not the case, and court-approved lawyers do not get rich through the system, and many of the people involved are dedicated to their taxing jobs. But, the sheer number of people involved in assisting each family, adds up to lots of effort and money. If the process was more streamlined or efficient, perhaps more private lawyers could become involved, because family members could afford their fees. As it currently stands, we have attended two hearings in a month which have both resulted in continuances after hours and hours of waiting. We are billing our clients to sit and wait, but as “a lawyer’s time and advice are his stock in trade”, a saying attributed to Abraham Lincoln, we have no choice.

Ms. Faye Cohen , Esquire

Law Office of Faye Riva Cohen, P.C.

I am Faye Riva Cohen, Esquire and am a Philadelphia attorney who has been practicing law since 1974. I am the president and managing attorney of both the Law Office of Faye Riva Cohen, P.C. and Legal Research, Inc.