Although justice can and does happen on a daily basis in the family courts here in California, one need only be at the end of an injustice to lose all hope and faith in the system.  I often tell people seeking advice that justice is not the purpose behind the courts, but conflict resolution.  Justice is more of a by-product of a system that is designed to resolve such conflicts when both sides cannot or will not do so.

It is thus imperative to have a realistic appraisal of the way things work in the family courts.  The good guys do not always win, any more than the good guys always win in war.  The truth can be, and often is, a casualty in the rush to ‘clear the docket’ and it is for that reason many family law attorneys have declared our family courts are in crisis.  I could not agree more.

I found these two paragraphs that I found somewhat helpful in explaining the dynamic:


Another area of psychological impact on the legal proceedings is the client’s perception of the legal system. During this time of crisis, the client may not willingly accept the fact that the objective justice of a judicial decision may bare no resemblance whatsoever to the subjective justice to which he or she clings with a desperate hope. From the area in which the parties feel most vulnerable and wounded there grows an uncompromising faith that the system (i.e., the courts, the judges, the law) will surely bestow its benediction of fairness upon them. The notion that our laws are fair and that, therefore, contact with the law will produce a fair result dies a hard death when such a result does not come to be. The husband who hears for the first time that his spouse, who was unemployed throughout the marriage, owns one-half of his pension as a matter-of-fact property right, and the wife who is told that her child support will terminate when her daughter turns eighteen, even though the daughter will continue to live with her at home while attending junior college, share a common outrage that the law can be so unfair. Can it really be true, in a no-fault divorce state, that the judge will not make a different decision if he knows that John or Mary has been unfaithful in the marriage? And, surely the court will not let the children visit with their father when his new girlfriend is at his apartment! (Saposnek, 1985).

The reality is that the law is at best a canonization of public policy statements by the legislature or the appellate courts, made as generalizations which cannot anticipate the specific application to the unique circumstances of each individual’s marriage. Compounding the problem is the reality that the ability of an attorney to predict the courts’ application of the law to any given set of specific facts is made more remote by each additional issue which will be placed before the court. A delicate balancing of objective equities from the bench cannot realistically be anticipated given the complexity that comes with each additional layer of issues. A key to a client’s willingness to enter into meaningful negotiations with a spouse is the ability of that client to let go of these myths regarding the legal system.”