Thankfully, most people are law-abiding residents. Nevertheless, this does not mean that they avoid civil actions. Some of the most unsettling experiences these individuals have are eviction and child custody proceedings. Ejectment from one’s established residence can cause great upheaval in that resident’s life. Property and emotional well-being can be lost. When divorcing and/or never married parents cannot agree on child custody arrangements, both parties and their children suffer great turmoil and instability. Additionally, some people live with domestic violence, which destroys self-esteem and discourage the victim from reporting this crime. Now double this anxiety because these people cannot speak English well enough and do not understand enough, if at all.
Routinely, interpreters are provided for criminal matters, where an individual’s liberty or life is at stake. However, spousal abuse, home eviction, and child custody are all serious civil matters. Without a good resolution, those matters can cause a person to escalate into taking matters into her own hands, which may result in criminal acts.
Why should only certified court interpreters be used in these matters? One of the canons of court interpreting is impartiality. Interpreters do not take sides for the defendant or the plaintiff. The interpreter’s role is to ensure that the limited English proficient (LEP) individual hears the proceeding in a language she understands. If a friend, or worse, an inmate or the abuser is used, there will certainly be omissions and additions of statements. If a woman (or a man) is severely beaten by a partner, an interpreter is vital if the Court is to hear explicitly and in great detail what actually happened and rule accordingly.
Eviction proceedings can leave someone homeless. If the person being evicted is LEP, there are concerns. It is possible that not only does the individual not even know that she is being put out of her home, but also the reason why she is being put out. Most people want to comply with the law. However, not understanding the law or being familiar with the situation can lead to noncompliance, which can have serious repercussions for the LEP person. Therefore, a certified court interpreter will render everything that has been stated in the courtroom to the LEP individual.
Being a parent who has been married for over 25 years, I cannot fathom what people encounter when working on child custody issues. It is safe to say that tempers are heated, and emotions are through the roof. Each party wants what is best for the children but do not agree on what is best. When a certified court interpreter is present, the wishes and concerns of the LEP party (or parties) can be clearly expressed. Certainly, losing custody of one’s children without understanding why that is happening is distressing. Sadly, it is possible that a violent parent may gain custody over the LEP parent by telling the LEP person one thing and testifying in court to another.
These travesties of justice are avoided when an impartial, certified court interpreter, who has demonstrated the minimum standard of proficiency, is scheduled for such matters.