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Over Reaction to the Dulos Case – Legislative Proposals In Hartford to Expand the Definition of “Domestic Violence”

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Everyone in Connecticut including the author is outraged about the death of Jennifer Dulos.  For those who may have been living under a rock for the last year, Jennifer was in the midst of a “high conflict” divorce case in Stamford Superior Court last May when she disappeared.  Her estranged husband Fotis Dulos was later charged with her murder and he committed suicide while awaiting trial on bond.  I have written extensively on how the Dulos case has had a profound effect on pending domestic violence cases throughout Connecticut.

The Dulos family had no prior arrest history and apparently there was nothing to give the court any reliable indication that a violent murder would occur.  As a result, other courts have become more cautious about resolving pending domestic violence cases.

We live in a reactionary society.  Jennifer Dulus was the number one most searched term on google in the state of Connecticut in 2019. The circus is just getting started with the trial of the co-conspirators of Fotis Dulos still looming this case will be in the spotlight of the media for months to come.  People are upset and outraged that the court system let Jennifer down and they are looking for someone to blame.   It’s strange that they can’t just accept the fact that the family court divorce system is overloaded and that a homicidal maniac like Fotis Dulos just happened to snap under the financial pressure he was facing.

Divorce is becoming more and more common and the courts have failed to provide the resources needed to facilitate the expedient and dignified resolution of divorce cases. Some divorce practitioners have exploited this systemic inefficiency to game the system for their client’s advantage.  Another common problem is the rise in self-represented parties who have no understanding of court procedure and who consume a lot of valuable court resources with frivolous motions. Regardless of the cause, the reality is that a visit to divorce court on a short calendar day will show you that the system is overloaded and in need of reform.

Now State Senator Alex Kasser has made a proposed legislative act called the “Child Saftey First Bill” that includes the expansion of the definition of “domestic violence” to include other kinds of behavior including:

“Financial Abuse”

and

“Litigation Abuse.”

It is ironic that the legislator proposes to criminalize the act of participating in a broken family court system that is supervised by judges of the Superior Court.  One would presume that “litigation abuse” would be something that a judge could easily control within her courtroom by denying frivolous motions.   I am opposed to the concept of criminalizing participation in civil divorce proceedings.  The solution to the “problem” is to reform the divorce courts to provide more resources to adjudicate cases more efficiently and expediently. While the judicial branch’s budget is stretched thin our State needs to invest additional resources to fund more Judges to fill empty courtrooms which can move stagnant cases along quicker.

Frivolous motions and litigation tactics designed to abuse the other party are often employed in the divorce court.  All too often these unethical divorce lawyers utilize the criminal process to gain an upper hand for their clients in contested divorce proceedings.  The solution is not to criminalize the participation in family court proceedings but rather give some funding to the judges in the Superior Court so they can give more attention to the overload of cases on their dockets.  The judges are well equipped to sanction and punish those who abuse the system by filing frivolous motions and engaging in abusive litigation tactics.

As for financial abuse is this legislator really saying that we want to make it a crime to not pay your spouse’s bills?  The correct approach to the problem of spousal support is to provide resources to the court system so that pendente lite (temporary) hearings are held promptly.  If the court would promptly hear motions requesting financial support and punish people who refuse to comply with court orders in a prompt manner there would be no need to consider the criminalization of “financial abuse.”

Our divorce court system is overloaded, slow and leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth who has to seek justice there.  The solution to this crisis is to provide more funding to our excellent judges of the Superior Court so that they will have the proper resources to move cases along more quickly and identify problem cases that require more attention.

I disagree strongly with the proposal to expand the definition of “domestic violence” to resolve the problems that exist in the divorce court.

Everyone is entitled to their day in court.  It is up to the judges to determine who is abusing the system and who has a legitimate claim that needs to be resolved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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