The Show

Crisis in Family Court

Dr. Phil shines a light on the American family court system, and how often it fails its citizens. From restraining orders to custody battles, hear heartbreaking stories that many say prove the system needs a major overhaul.

The Aftermath



In the two weeks following baby Wyatt's murder, six other children's lives have been taken by their fathers. They all involved custody, visitation and/or child support issues.


Kathleen Russell is co-founder and consultant with the Center for Judicial Excellence and has been working for the past four years to help educate the public about the problems in family courts. She tells Dr. Phil, "What happened in Katie's horrific case is happening in courtrooms across America, many of them domestic violence survivors. Society spends lots of resources telling women to leave their abusers, and when they do, they end up in family court. Attorneys are advising them not to mention their own abuse, the abuse of the children, because the judges don't want to hear it, and they're told they will lose custody of their children by reporting abuse."

Dr. Phil clarifies, "Their attorneys are telling them, ‘You better not talk about domestic violence against yourself or your children, or you're going to wind up losing your children'?"

"That's correct," Kathleen says. "Many of the judges believe that when women report abuse, they're lying, and they're fabricating those stories as a litigation tactic to get an edge in the custody battle. So, immediately, the court focuses on the parent trying to protect the child and blames them as an alienating parent, or parental alienation is the theory. But the American Bar Association, the American Psychological Association, all credible medical and legal organizations have debunked this theory as non-scientific and not credible. And they say it actually endangers the prosecution of abuse cases."

"Here's my position on this. I think when you're talking about child safety, when somebody reports a threat, you have to assume it is a real threat," Dr. Phil says. "I would rather investigate a thousand where you found there was no basis for it, than fail to investigate one situation, such as with Wyatt, where nobody steps in and does anything."

   3 of 4