Newly created Family Court Department W will be electing its first judge this November. Attorneys Stacy Michelle Rocheleau and Adriana Rincon White have different areas of expertise to bring to the table.
Rocheleau has 19 years of experience in family law. Rincon White has 12 years, including as a full time hearing master in dependency court, dealing with abuse and neglect cases and termination of parental rights.
Both attorneys agree that a child’s voice is important but should not be the final decision in a custody case.
“The wishes of the child is a voice. It’s not a choice. So it’s really not up to the child to decide,” Rocheleau said. “It’s up to the judge to decide whether or not that child is going to live with one parent or the other, especially when both parents both equally matched.”
Rincon White said that the judge shouldn’t rubber-stamp the preference of that child. Instead, look at the circumstances to determine what is in the best interest of the child and mend the child’s relationship with the parent who didn’t get custody.
“I work in a very highly emotionally charged courtroom right now,” Rincon White said. “I usually meet parents on what is probably the worst day of their life within 72 hours of their children being removed.”
She said she would treat emotional cases with dignity and respect, explain to them the process, encourage them to be part of the solution and not part of the problem and resolve their legal issue.
Rocheleau said she has represented more than 5,000 clients and she has been able to “bring them to a peaceful resolution through settlement conferences, through alternative dispute resolution mechanisms and keep them out of the courtroom.”
Both attorneys say they would look at statutes, case law and federal guidelines to deal with difficult parental rights cases. They said she would watch the parents’ progress at the six-month mark, and by the 12-month mark it should be a clear if the parent is improved and capable to care for the child.
“If parents show up and haven’t really been engaged in services, I really don’t have a choice but to establish permanency as adoption without compelling reasons in order to keep reunification as a goal,” Rincon White said.
“The child is really entitled to permanency within 12 months,” Rocheleau said. “There’s a lot of these complicated cases and there’s a lot that we need to take into effect before we just terminate parental rights.”
If elected, Rocheleau would work on improving the Family Court by implementing attorneys fees for frivolous motions. She said currently judges are not doing that and the “frivolous motions clog up the docket and they delay justice for those that need justice.”
Rincon White would work on the court’s efficiency and decision making.
“I believe that those decisions need to be delivered in a timely fashion,” she said. “I see a lot of hearings being continued, being delayed, status checked and taken under advisement because people just can’t make a decision.”
Contact Jannelle Calderon at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @NewsyJan on Twitter.