Nebraska Court Orders Disclosure of Judicial Training Materials

Januray 29, 2016
By Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

For many years, the social science on children’s well-being as it relates to parenting arrangements post-divorce has been building up. By now it is clear that children do better with two parents involved in their lives. But judicial action on child custody and parenting time has changed little over the years, leaving millions of children with little or no contact with their fathers following divorce. Indeed, nationwide data indicate that about one-third of children of divorce have no contact with their father. In Nebraska, a 2013 survey of child custody cases revealed that children are granted just 17% of parenting time with their non-custodial parents, typically their father.

This extreme disconnect between what social science demonstrates is unquestionably in children’s best interest and what judges order has led many to wonder what family court judges are being taught about the matter. Soon, the people of Nebraska will know the answer to that vital question.

Nebraska Judge Susan Strong has ruled that the state’s judiciary must make public the materials used to train its judges in child custody and parenting time cases.

Veteran family court reform activist Dr. Les Veskrna requested the materials pursuant to the state’s Open Records Act, but Court Administrator Corey Steel refused to make any records available, claiming they weren’t subject to the dictates of the Act. So Veskrna filed suit and won. Of 12 sets of documents requested, Strong protected only one – a personal email from a judge – from disclosure. The ruling is temporarily on hold while Steel decides whether he’ll appeal or not.

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