Sunday, May 10, 2009

Book Review, 2 of 4: Bronwstone’s Tug of War

Harvey Brownstone, a Toronto family court judge with fourteen years of experience, published recently a book titled Tug of War: A Judge's Verdict on Separation, Custody Battles, and the Bitter Realities of Family Court (Ecw Press, January 2009).

This book, the first ever written by a family court judge on these issues, has been written not in legal but in layman’s language, provides much-needed information for separated couples contemplating going to family court to resolve parental disputes. It explains complex family law concepts and procedures, including detailed explanation on what family courts are, what they are not, and how they work.

The book also offers easily understandable case examples to show the reader how harmful family court is for families, and how bad litigation is for children.
Because Judge Brownstone believes that family courts are always damaging and should be used only as a last resort, he describes several "alternative dispute resolutions" to litigation that may help prevent families with children from entering the legal system to resolve disputes, alternatives such as mediation, collaborative law, counseling, and binding arbitration, all of them aimed at helping families reach agreements out of court.

Analyzing all parties involved in family law issues, judges, lawyers, mediators, parenting coaches, psychologists, family counselors, and social workers, Brownstone demystifies the role of lawyers and judges, and attacks the idea that parents can represent themselves in court, strongly encouraging to seek legal representation from a lawyer who specializes in family law.

The book examines each parent’s responsibility to ensure that post-separation conflicts are resolved with minimal damage to the children stuck in the middle of parental disputes.

"The whole message of this book is that family court is bad for families and litigation is bad for children. That's what people need to know," says Brownstone, "there are a lot of people out there in pain and they come here thinking it will get better," "but there's no winning in family court – there are only degrees of losing. People get that when they come here, but it's too late by then."

This book is a "must-read" for every separated and divorced parent. Readers should also look for Brownstone article “"That toxic tug-of-war". (, published on April 25 of 2009 in the webpage of the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail (, on which he discuss the same issues, with emphasis in the concept of the “Parental Alienation Syndrome” (PAS).

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