Keeping the Family Nucleus Together Is Front and Center for Families Contemplating Divorce

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A former DuPage County Judge and Schiller DuCanto & Fleck attorney praises efforts to keep the family nucleus together as parenting coordinators, mediators, custody evaluators, lawyers and other professionals who work with high-conflict families going through divorce gather in Chicago this week for a training session sponsored by the Association of Family and Conciliation Court.

“It’s important that parents have the resources to fully understand how they can best continue their relationship with their child even if that is not in the form of a traditional family."

When Michael R. Galasso was first appointed an Associate Judge in the Domestic Relations Division of DuPage County Circuit Court in 1984 it was a riveting personal moment when he heard shouting voices coming from the hall. There he found two parents, each pulling at one of the child’s arm, exclaiming “He belongs with me.” It was that moment, close to 25 years ago, that prompted him to lead efforts to develop programs that would provide parents with a better understanding of the divorce process and its impact on the family.

For most families it may be their first time through the process, he explains. “It’s important that parents have the resources to fully understand how they can best continue their relationship with their child even if that is not in the form of a traditional family,” says Galasso.

As a judge in DuPage County for more than 17 years, Galasso says it is important for parents to understand the limitations of the judicial system, especially in child custody matters. A judge sees a family for 30-40 hours in a contested case, and although his mission is to provide the best possible outcome for the family, it is not right for him to make that decision in a tunnel and purely under the letter of law.

To that end, in 1986, Galasso led the formation of the DuPage County Conciliation Program, which requires all DuPage County divorce custody disputes to be assigned to a court-approved clinical psychologist for mediation and evaluation. “By bringing trained professionals into the process we preserve society’s most basic unit – the family – even if it isn’t functioning in a traditional manner,” he adds.

Since the mid 1980’s, conciliation programs have transformed not only the courts of DuPage County, but nationwide as Galasso has been called upon to outline the formation of the program which he led. He also created the DuPage County Divorce Evaluation Program for parents and children, designed to help families cope with the emotional trauma of divorce.

Today, he praises efforts by groups such as Association of Family and Conciliation Courts that is dedicated to the resolution of family conflict and to the Illinois Judges Association which works cooperatively to create educational programs.

At the same time, he says it is critical to work with a good divorce lawyer and a firm dedicated to the best interest of the family as a whole, such as Schiller DuCanto & Fleck, where Galasso is Of Council since his retirement from the Illinois Appellate Court in December 2000.

“I have seen both sides of the process, as a judge and a lawyer, my best advice to a person contemplating a divorce is to interview a family lawyer and pose the most ridiculous and unfair child custody situation,” says Galasso. “If that lawyer says, “yes, we will win at all costs,” they won’t be the best lawyer for you or your children. Divorce is never easy, but when it is “win at all costs” the most likely outcome is increased stress and expense to settle disputes,” he adds.

Michael R. Galasso joined Schiller DuCanto & Fleck LLP following a successful and distinguished career as both attorney and jurist. After 23 years as a private practitioner concentrating on matrimonial matters, he began his judicial career in 1984 when he was appointed an Associate Judge in DuPage County. He assumed increasingly more significant roles during his 16-year career as a jurist, including service as Presiding Judge of the Domestic Relations and Law Divisions and Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of DuPage County. In July of 1995, after three years in the Civil Law Division presiding over complex civil litigation, he was named Presiding Judge, and in December of that same year was elected Chief Judge of the Eighteenth Circuit. He concluded his judicial service career as a Justice of the Illinois Appellate Court.

Schiller DuCanto & Fleck LLP works with clients using a team approach to achieve the best possible results for those going through divorce and family transitions. The firm is the largest family law practice in the U.S and provides the most comprehensive legal resources available in this sensitive yet complex area of practice. Schiller DuCanto & Fleck LLP has offices in Chicago, Lake Forest and Wheaton, Illinois. Further information on the firm can be found at http://www.sdflaw.com.

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