Intimate Terrorism Part II, Resource Directory of Family Law Providers

I

Host Gemma Allen, a partner at Ladden & Allen, Chartered, welcomed guests to the first Think Tank of 2008 held at the Ritz-Carlton Chicago on Saturday, Feb. 16. She noted that the discussion about "intimate terrorism" – first introduced at the October 27, 2007 Think Tank – would continue. Equally important, she asked the participants to comment on whether there was a need for a list of professional resources on intimate terrorism and other aspects of marital and family dysfunction. The Think Tank group agreed there was a need and suggested names of professionals who could be placed on the list.

II

Elsie Radtke spoke about the resource list which the Archdiocese of Chicago has developed as well as the programs in which she is engaged. She spoke movingly on the epidemic of middle-aged couples seeking divorce as well as the fact that children of divorced parents often make poor decisions related to partners . . . they need to learn "how not to marry a jerk or a jerkette."

What followed was quite literally a "brainstorming" among the good, experienced and dedicated minds present on the resources needed to support both families, and when needed, family attorneys and the divorce division of the court system.

Marilyn Solomon, Pat Bermbom, Patricia McMahon as well as Meg and Daniel Haycraft described the needs of families, both in and out of divorce court, to have expertise supporting the unique issues of relationships. All who were present agreed with Ms. Radtke's observations about the children of divorce and the need for everyone at all ages to learn relationship skills. Inspired in part by comments from Ralla Klepak, Leslie Star and Mary Gardner, the discussion turned to specific assignments and skills of experts for families in the legal system. Judge Jeanne Bernstein and Robert and Barbara Downs confirmed the need for an expanded list of forensic experts because in so many instances, that insight informs the discretion of the Court.

Ralla Klepak and some of the mental health professionals discussed the attempts often made to legally intimidate the experts and the need for greater legal immunity and protection for them. We learned that forensic experts have been driven away from the field due in part to the cost/fees/fears of having to defend a good evaluation before professional boards when accused of misconduct by litigious and unhappy "losers" in family law decisions. We need more good men and women providing the forensic expertise, and we need to protect them from vindictive allegations with legal immunity.

Important points were made by Stacy Platt, Laura Dropkin, and Randy Franklin regarding the need for broader mental health support both in and out of court. They, along with Jerry Porzemsky, agreed that we are an increasingly "diverse" culture, and they emphasized the cultural gap between couples from differing religions and ethnic backgrounds as an issue that needs to be better addressed. All present, including Kate van Dyke and Brian James, agreed we need experts with specific cultural insights, as well as those who do pro bono or low-cost work and/or will work on a sliding scale.

In conclusion, it became apparent that broadening our referral base and developing a Resource List is a worthy goal. Ladden & Allen will continue to work on developing a Directory with and for all of the participants. We offer our deepest thanks for your contribution to this effort.

III

Think Tank Outcome
Based on comments delivered at the meeting, an action plan was developed that includes:

  1. A continuing interest in the concept of "intimate terrorism" and how it can be better recognized and addressed;
  2. The development of a Resource Directory composed of family mental health practitioners, psychologists and other professionals as used in an ongoing and expanding list of forensic expertise (Ladden & Allen will take the lead in compiling this directory);
  3. Continuing efforts to protect forensic experts from direct or indirect retribution.

Photos taken at the February 16 Think Tank are posted at:
http://picasaweb.google.com/rader.laura/ThinkTank02
They can be downloaded free of charge by clicking on the photo of your choice.

SAVE THE DATE: The next Think Tank will be held on Saturday, May 17th. A complimentary breakfast will be served. We will continue to work on the Resource List, but also focus on a fascinating topic: The Law and Psychology of Prenuptial Agreements.

# # #

Attending the February 16 Think Tank were (listed alphabetically):

Gemma B. Allen, Esq., Ladden & Allen, Chartered; M. Patricia Bernbom; The Honorable Jeanne Bernstein, Circuit Court of Cook County; Kimberly A. Busch, Associate, Ladden & Allen, Chartered; Barbara Downs, Downs & Downs, P.C.; Robert Downs, Downs & Downs, P.C.; Lauren Dropkin; Kate van Dyke, Divorce Counseling and Coaching, Inc.; Randy W. Franklin, Esq., Franklin Law Offices; Mary K. Gardner, M.S. Ed., Psy.D., Gardner Psychological Associates, Inc.; Todd M. Glassman, Associate, Ladden & Allen, Chartered; Daniel Haycraft; Meg Haycraft; Brian James, Mediator, C.E.L. and Associates; Ralla Klepak; Ellyne Ladden; Ronald S. Ladden, Esq. Ladden & Allen, Chartered; Patricia McMahon, Psy.D.; Albert J. Nader; Stacy Platt, Loyola Child Law Center; Elsie Radtke, Family Ministries, Archdiocese of Chicago; Chris Ruys, Chris Ruys Communications, Inc.; Merilyn M. Salomon, Ph.D.; Dr. Leslie D. Star, Ph.D.

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