“After losing case after case, he simply gave up. Like the dogs in the study, he had learned there was little he could do to change the outcome of the case. So why bother fighting?”

Finding an attorney who will protect parental rights can almost be impossible. Attorneys don’t even bother anymore

Vivek Sankaran, appellate attorney for CPS cases, says when he reads through transcripts he has difficulty finding the objections on the record required to argue the error on appeal. He finds error, they just are not preserved.

A Little Outrage Please is right!

Attorney Vivek Sankaran discovered that attorneys are acquiescing and not advocating for their clients in CPS cases, so when he goes to write an appeal for the parents, he doesn’t have what he needs in the record to fight the trial court error.

In other words, systems don’t automatically “bend towards justice” and so attorneys and . They only do so when lawyers say the magic phrase:  “I object.” If you are a student of ours here at Fix Family Courts then you know just objecting isn’t enough. Come to our Appellate webinar and get this bonus paper on what you need to do to protect your right to appeal.

We have discovered that attorneys in child custody suits between two fit parents behave the same way. We personally know constitutional attorneys who gave up trying to. For parents now though giving up is not an option.

Parents who give up and leave in despair are more likely to expire earlier and more and more studies are confirming the increased risks of leaving a system in place that increase daily stress and cause mental health injuries.

Recent studies show, “American Millenials are seeing their physical and mental health decline at a faster rate than Gen X did as they age, a Blue Cross Blue Shield report found.” And “[m]illenials could see a 40% uptick in mortality compared with Gen Xers of the same age, the report found.”

Regardless of age, parents subjected to the adversarial child custody suits are at greater risk of experiencing “deaths of despair”, physical health decline, and depression, as they resign themselves to the idea that it is hopeless to fight because they are told that they won’t succeed no matter what they do.

What are some of the traits of this learned helplessness?

  • Passivity.
  • Giving up.
  • Procrastination.
  • Decreased problem-solving ability.
  • Frustration.
  • Low self-esteem.

These symptoms in turn lead to increased stress, anxiety, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Sound familiar?

Vivek’s theory is that attorneys have fallen victim to “Learned Helplessness.”

What is Learned Helplessness?

“Learned Helplessness” was discovered by Martin Seligman in the 1960s when he was studying the causes of depression. He found that when dogs thought they could not escape shocks, they would stop trying. Very similar to the study on rats who would stop swimming once they thought it was hopeless to be rescued. When the rats saw other rats being rescued they would keep swimming.

More and More adversarial litigants opting to go pro se.

Self representation has become necessary for parents to not only to protect their future ability to control their own destiny but to protect their own mental health and physical health. If you are finding it difficult to cope and need an extra boost to stay motivated so you can keep learning how to take charge of your case, click here to send us a message so that we can refer  you to some resources.)

Attorneys who do advocate for parents wanting to challenge the application of the best interest doctrine and who want the judge challenged and demand that the judge apply all doctrines required so that justice may be done, are being challenged with threats of sanctions, held to higher filing standards, getting picked on, reprimanded in private, and treated as if a request to apply the constitution is an insult to the judge.

Parents involved in CPS suits in small towns often find their attorneys have relationships with the D.A. representatives and the CPS workers bringing the case. We see attorneys become paper pushers and used in collaboration with approving service plans and getting parents to sign consents in order to avoid the effort it will take to advocate instead for the parents.

Protecting the Record

Objecting is not enough. It is part of the process for preserving error but is far from all that is necessary to develop the court record for arguing on appeal.

We have made it easy for you by publishing the arguments in this motion package.

How do you use objections to preserve errors?

(Watch the video on this page to learn more about how to use these objections.)

You must keep that objection preserved.

You must know what kind of objection to make.

You must get rulings on your objection.

What are running objections?

Objections used to preserve your objection throughout the trial process without having to object every time. Watch the video to learn more about this kind of objection.

And that’s just a start.

The Learned Helplessness Test questions for attorney before you hire them, after you hire them. (Watch the video to learn these questions.)

What Training is Available?

We have a Signature Course to help you prepare during your trial to protect your right to appeal. Just as Sankaran trains CPS attorneys to conduct their trial with protections he needs to argue on appeal, we teach you from our experiences what you can do to teach your attorney how to protect your case for appeal.

Watch the video here to learn the attorney test that we developed to help you find the right attorney and save thousands of dollars.

Do you have a question about any of these topics or want to see some more information on something, send us this suggestion.

Vivek Sankaran is a clinical professor of law at the University of Michigan Law School, and he directs both the Child Advocacy Law Clinic and the Child Welfare Appellate Clinic, through which law students represent children and parents in trial and appellate proceedings.