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Judge candidates critique divorce law & process

Candidates stress ways to speed divorce.

By ADRIAN ANGELETTE
The Baton Rouge Advocate
Sep 11, 2006

[This article presents the experience and views of four candidates for a Baton Rouge family court judgeship. All four candidates seem to have a lot of family law experience, wisdom, compassion, and a commitment to reform. At least two are involved in collaborative divorce and mediation, and two vowed to stop having off-the-record conferences with lawyers without the clients, which they said gives clients the impression of secrecy and corruption. The excerpts below are about reforms in the availability of divorce.]

Pam Baker
An attorney since 1984, Baker said she wishes the state would return to a system in which people first filed for legal separations before filing for divorces. The current system, which requires a spouse to file for divorce right off the bat, creates an immediate barrier to reconciliation.

Baker also said a new Louisiana law that forces couples with minor children to wait a year before getting their divorce finalized will create more litigation. Baker said more people will choose to have “fault trials” — or highly contentious hearings where one spouse accuses the other of horrible acts — in an attempt to shorten the lengthened process.

Tom Gibbs

Like Baker, Gibbs said he thinks the new state law requiring a one-year waiting period before divorces can become final will create more litigation in Family Court and end up not serving the Legislature’s intended purposes.

“Anything that prolongs the process isn’t good for anyone except for the lawyers,” Gibbs said.

The Legislature’s intention was to give people more time to reconcile, he said.

“It’s just a matter of passage of time. Once the parties get to a lawyer, they’ve already decided the marriage is over.”

Melanie Newkome Jones
…  And although her parents have “the perfect divorce” and there is no animosity, Jones said, there still are strains, especially for children.

“It’s like the death of the family for a child,” she said.

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