The family court system has a problem.
That's the message Tina Swithin, a San Luis Obispo local, has been sharing across the nation as she seek to raise awareness of the issues facing families and children in the family court system.
On Tuesday, Swithin's cross-country journey came full circle when the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors proclaimed the month of November "Family Court Awareness Month."
The county supervisors unanimously passed the motion after a Swithin gave a presentation on the issue during the board's Nov. 16 meeting.
Family court deals with cases that include child custody, paternity, divorce and domestic abuse.
Swithin, an author and parent with experience in family court, started the movement in 2020. By the beginning of November 2021, 200 cities, counties and states had publicly shared support of Family Court Awareness Month.
"The majority of people in our communities don't really know that there is an issue in family courts, and that children's safety is not being prioritized," Swithin said.
Swithin sidesteps the issue of "mother's rights" or "father's rights" and zooms in on the struggles children face. She says courts rarely believe what children say.
"When a child does use their voice, the parent is often accused of coaching them." Swithin said. "We're infantilizing children instead of believing them."
She says often, abusive parents are given more credence than the children caught in the crossfire.
"There are so many children right here in our community that are put into abusive situations. And that's unacceptable. We have to do better," Swithin said.
Tuesday's proclamation may not bring an immediate change, but Swithin hopes it will work to start conversations about the system.
"Technically it's a piece of paper," Swithin said, "but it's a piece of paper that gives us a starting point."