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Custody Crisis: Why Moms Are Punished in Court

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Talk to mothers, divorce lawyers, and child advocates and you'll hear tales of a family court system that's badly broken.

Linda Marie and Children

Gina Kaysen Fernandes: To an outsider, Linda Marie Sacks had the perfect life. Her husband was rich, and they lived in a huge home in Daytona Beach, FL, where she spent her days shuttling her girls to school and various activities. Linda Marie describes herself as a "squeaky clean soccer mom" who "lived my life for my children." Behind that façade, Linda Marie says she married a monster -- a man who verbally and emotionally attacked her for years and sexually abused their two young daughters.

When she finally left him and tried to take her girls with her, she encountered a new monster -- family court. Rather than protecting Linda Marie and her two young daughters from a sexual predator, a family court judge denied Linda Marie custody and put her daughters into the hands of their sexually abusive father.

Talk to mothers, divorce lawyers, and child advocates and you'll hear tales of a family court system that's badly broken. It's one that routinely punishes women for coming forward with allegations of abuse by denying them custody of their children. Instead of protecting children from abusers and predators, the court often gives sole custody to the abusive parent, say child advocates. Mothers who tell judges their children are being molested or beaten are accused of lying and are punished for trying to intervene. Some are thrown in jail for trying to keep their kids from seeing an abusive parent. Women, many of whom have few financial resources at their disposal, are often at the mercy of a court system that is not designed to handle domestic violence.

Linda Marie first suspected something was wrong in 2002 when she received a shocking phone call from a school administrator. Her 7-year-old daughter was acting out sexually, with knowledge beyond her years. A short time later, the Sunday school teacher reported overhearing Linda Marie's daughter saying, "I suck my dad's penis." She received more phone calls from school about her little girl using Barbie dolls to simulate oral sex with a boy in her class. "I was very concerned, these are alarming red flags," said Linda Marie.

She consulted family therapists who also expressed alarm and concern, but failed to report these claims to an abuse hotline. In one of the therapy sessions, the oldest daughter drew a picture that depicted her father as an erect penis on legs. Linda Marie says she once walked in on her husband wiping her daughters' vaginas in the bathroom before school, "because he told me he wanted them to be fresh." When Linda Marie confronted her husband, he ignored and dismissed the allegations.

After 11 years of marriage, Linda Marie filed for divorce in 2004. Armed with detailed documentation, she believed the judge would grant her sole custody of her two daughters for their protection. "I was sheltered. I didn't know I had stepped into a national crisis in the courts," said Linda Marie, who spent tens of thousands of dollars in a legal battle that ended in the loss of her parental rights. Linda Marie has only seen her children during supervised visits for a total of 54 hours over the past two and a half years. "I'm one of the lucky moms," she said, choking back tears. "Some bonds are severed forever. I'm thankful for my two hours a month."

Some mothers like Lorraine Tipton of Oconto Falls, WI, have served jail time as the result of contentious custody arraignments. In November, a judge sentenced Lorraine to 30 days behind bars because she didn't force her 11-year-old daughter to follow the court's order to live every other week with her abusive father. "She's terrified of going; she has night terrors and severe anxiety," said Lorraine.

Her ex, Craig Hensberger, was arrested three times for domestic violence and once for child abuse. His criminal record also includes two DUI arrests, one of which happened while driving with his daughter. The court ordered Hensberger into rehab and demanded "absolute sobriety," but his daughter claims he still drinks excessively when she visits.

Hensberger admitted in court that he still continues to drink, but the judge punished Lorraine instead for trying to protect her child. "My abuser is continuing his abuse of me and my daughter with the help of the court," said Lorraine, who spent three days locked up until her daughter made the heart-wrenching decision to return to her father's home so her mother could be released from jail. "He can't get to me physically. The only way he knows how to hurt me is to take my child away."

"What we are seeing amounts to a civil rights crisis," says attorney and legal writer Michael Lesher, who co-authored the book From Madness To Mutiny: Why Mothers Are Running from the Family Courts -- and What Can Be Done about It. Many judges and court-appointed guardians act above the law with apparent impunity, he argues.

"There's no hearing, no evidence, no notice -- they can take your child away from you," Lesher tells momlogic. If a mother raises concerns or openly discusses child abuse in court, she typically ends up being the one under investigation. "Mom is guilty until proven innocent," he says.

A family court judge with the Los Angeles Superior Court refused momlogic's request for an interview to respond to these allegations.

Unlike criminal court, family court does not rely on criminal investigators to gather evidence in an alleged child abuse case. Instead, the court appoints family advocates known as "guardian ad litem," or GAL, who are expected to investigate the abuse allegations and make their recommendation in the best interest of the child. GALs are sometimes licensed psychologists, social workers, or attorneys who are not necessarily trained in evaluating sexual abuse or domestic violence. They have the judge's ear, and their opinions can alter a child's future. There are no juries and there's no mandate for legal representation. In fact, most women end up representing themselves because they can't afford the attorney fees.

Most moms don't want to take the case to criminal court because they prefer to keep the matter private. Legal experts contend the evidence in sexual abuse cases isn't typically strong enough to hold up in criminal court to overcome the threshold of "beyond a reasonable doubt." While the bar is set much lower for proving evidence in family court, advocates argue Child Protective Services frequently doesn't want to get involved. "If there's a custody battle going on, CPS won't touch it," says Irene Weiser of the advocacy group StopFamilyViolence.org.

There's no doubt fathers play a critical role in a child's life, and in most cases, are equally loving and capable parents who deserve custody. However, studies find when a wife accuses her husband of abuse, more than half the time, she faces a counter-accusation of "parental alienation syndrome," or PAS. Although PAS is not a medically recognized disorder, divorce attorneys often successfully argue that it emerges when a parent brainwashes a child into thinking the other parent is the enemy.

The psychiatrist Richard Gardner, who first coined the phrase "parental alienation syndrome" in 1987, has written more than one hundred articles on the subject, but has offered no scientific data to support his theory. While it's not considered a certifiable medical condition, PAS is widely accepted in the legal community.

"Parental Alienation unequivocally, categorically exists, and it's a form of child abuse," says author and forensic consultant Dean Tong. While he believes more studies need to be done to validate PAS, "it does exist, anecdotally speaking," he says. As an expert witness, Tong has been called a "fathers' rights prostitute" for his work in court clashes. But he also testifies for mothers who are fighting to appeal unfavorable rulings. For Tong, it's about using forensics to find the truth. "I'm not here to protect guys who are guilty," he says.

In years past, mothers were typically considered the "protective parent" in custody decisions when courts relied on the "Tender Years Doctrine," which states that children under the age of 13 should live with their mothers. Recently, several courts have ruled that doctrine violated the Equal Protection Clause in the 14th amendment, and replaced it with the "Best Interests of the Children" doctrine. It's a huge victory for the increasingly powerful Fatherhood Movement that contends dads are systematically alienated from their children after a divorce.

Tong argues the current legal climate continues to put fathers on the receiving end of false allegations. "It's handcuffs first, speak later," said Tong, who experienced that firsthand. In 1985, Tong's ex-wife falsely accused him of sexually abusing his 3-year-old daughter. He spent time in jail and went through "a year of hell" trying to prove his innocence. While Tong was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing, he never regained custody of his kids, and remained under supervised visitation for years. Tong became a self-taught expert on the subject of family rights and abuse accusations. He has written three books, including Elusive Innocence: Survival Guide for the Falsely Accused.

"There's an assumption that maintaining a child's relationship with the father is a good idea -- even if the father is abusive," says Stop Family Violence's Weiser, who believes when the overburdened court system is unable to sort out a custody conflict, it relies on misogyny. She argues there are many judges, GALs, and evaluators who believe that women are inherently vindictive and will lie to get a leg up in a custody battle. "We see it over and over again in family court, where judges or professionals don't believe the violence is occurring," Weiser says.

"All we have is 'he said, she said.' Who's telling the truth? That's up to the judge," says Tong, who believes the justice system isn't working for either side. "The system is not doing a good job interviewing kids, we're still in the dark ages there," says Tong, who thinks there needs to be more formal education and training for the professionals, including judges who are hearing child custody cases.

According to the American Bar Association, child abuse allegations in custody disputes are rare -- occurring in only six percent of cases. The majority of those accusations are substantiated. In terms of false allegations, fathers are more likely than mothers to intentionally lie (21 percent, compared to 1.3 percent). In fact, abusive parents are more likely to seek sole custody than nonviolent ones, and are successful about 70 percent of the time.

After three years of litigation, Linda Marie Sacks says she was no match for her ex-husband's financial resources and powerful connections. "He was buying his way through the courtroom." Despite 10 calls into the abuse hotline by licensed professionals, Linda Marie's ex-husband still claimed she was making false allegations of abuse to alienate his children, and the judge believed him. Linda Marie was kicked out of her home and put on supervised visitation with her two daughters, who are now ages 10 and 12. "The judge legally kidnapped my daughters and won't give them back," she said.

In some extreme cases, a custody decision will be reversed, which is what happened to Joyce Murphy. The San Diego mother was charged with kidnapping after she took her daughter out of state, away from the girl's father, because she believed he was a child molester. The father, Henry Parson, accused Joyce of parental alienation and she lost custody. "Despite my pleas for protection to the police and the DA and the family court representatives, and even psychologists, Mr. Parson was able to convince them and the community at large that he was the victim, and I was just an angry, embittered, divorced woman," explained Joyce.

Six years later, Parson was caught in the act and pleaded guilty to six counts of child abuse, which included oral sex with a child, molestation, possessing child porn, and using a child to make porn. After Parson received a six-year prison sentence, Joyce told reporters that family court's only good decision in her case was granting her full permanent custody of her daughter after her ex-husband was jailed.

Lorraine, the Wisconsin mom who was jailed for protecting her daughter, knows her daughter's nightmare will continue for the rest of her childhood. "He's never going to stop, it's never going to end until she's 18." Linda Marie says she's putting every penny towards her legal efforts to win back custody of her daughters. "I will never stop fighting for my girls. I know one day justice will prevail."

Critics argue that not only is the family court system broken, it was never designed to deal with issues like child custody. The goal is to develop solutions that are in the best interest of the child. "Unfortunately when judges and guardians start thinking of themselves as super government, all sorts of abuses will occur," says attorney and author Lesher.

Activists are working towards making reforms through legislation. "The heartbreaking challenge is that there's not one quick fix," says Stop Family Violence's Weiser. "This is a war -- it's very ugly, it's bloody, and very bitter," concludes Tong.




next: Memory Overload
339 comments so far | Post a comment now
Justice January 19, 2010, 7:29 PM

The article is really good. The only backslide is this:

“There’s no doubt fathers play a critical role in a child’s life,
and in most cases, are equally loving and capable parents who
deserve custody.”

This is a mother’s site right? Can we finally be proud of being mothers and want to raise our children? Enough with the sperm exaltation. Children DO NOT need bad dads. Equal parenting is a nonsense theory that robs women of the respect they should get for being a mother.

Tom January 19, 2010, 10:13 PM

I can’t believe how the family court system is I mean my god talk about messed up it just goes to show that the courts favor the molesters and abusers more than they do our children no wonder there is so many children being abused molested and killed.

Lost Mother January 20, 2010, 6:30 AM

Why is dean Tong in there making comments? He was recently arrested in FL for DV. Sounds like he is trying to change the wolfs clothing to me. He has long been known to bash moms and children in abusive situations saying they are ALL False allegations. hence his false abuse website.

The wolf remains the same.

But good article even with out his self propagation.

The courts are deadly to all victims of violence. Think again if you THINK you have the right to be safe.

Carmen  January 20, 2010, 9:33 AM

Great article! I am in Family Court Now (Monroe County, New York)and am feeling pressure. I believe that I have a good Judge however, opposing council is unethical and continuously raises issues that are false,and or my ex is encouraged to commit perjury. This forces me to present evidence in defense which require testimony. My case began July, 2007 and is still pending. I spent $22K last year and my ex spent over $50k. Child protective was used by my ex to accuse me of abuse. My ex, who had been found to be inept as a parent received sole custody of my daughter with this outrageous move. I have had a few attorney’s throughout the 30 months and none of them understood DV and the manifestation of abuse that comes from it. Judges are also attorneys, and likely to be personal friends with the attorneys that appear in their courtroom. They listen to arguments and make decisions based on what they hear. Their friends have more credibility than you! I am appealing my case and learned that only what is on the court record would be considered in the appeal. We have to ensure that our issues get on the record! What resonates with all of the complaints is a lack of training. We need to train competent attorneys who can advocate for us. In my state, hairdressers must have 1000 hours of training before they can practice and yet we permit lawyers to represent us with no training in DV? We must share this article with our legislators and work together to get laws passed to insure that all Judges receive DV training as qualification to sit on the bench. We must also train ourselves and attorneys who represent us — visit the law library, attend a Battered Mothers Conference, post this article on your Facebook page, share with your church, use the attorney grievance process to flag unethical attorneys, search the web, write letters to editors and politicians, create a blog, and self advocate. Public outrage is what is needed to enact laws that protect our freedom. By all means, tell everyone! We must stop being victims now that we know the game!

Observer January 20, 2010, 12:54 PM

The 70%-80% false accusations made by women about their ex spouses to prevent the Father’s having rights to parenting is the cause of the break down in the system. Its not the system. Its those who for years caused huge injustices primarily to the fathers, that are the reason for the courts disdain for these types of allegations.

What about those poor men who have been falsely accused? And what about the children who have been damaged by their mothers brainwashing them agaisnt the father??

Women have got to stop pretending victimhood! Only then will the truth resonate in the courts.

Cher January 20, 2010, 9:47 PM

Dear Observer -

With all due respect, you are one of two people: 1) a man who has worked the system in your favor and knows full well this article is point on or 2)a woman who IS an observer, one who has never been in the system or abused by the system. I was #2 for a very long time myself….until I entered the system. I was abused and the ex lied and still lies in court. The judge believed him and gave my ex, my abuser, the same man who abused his other ex-wife as well, 50% custody. I would encourage you to read some of the injustices that are happening each and every day to honest, educated, well-spoken women……I think you would be shocked. I was!

Bob January 21, 2010, 9:13 AM

Women don’t leave the country with their children to get their children to safety because, once they are found the system will put the mom trying to protect the child in jail, the kids will either go back into the home of the abuser, or into foster care where worse crimes against children are known to happen. Look at the people who have been vocal about the abuses of CPS. This is happening in the USA and other countries. Check out that information as well. It is NOT as easy as someone might presume to get their children to safety. Usually men are the abusers, but in small instances the women are. If you notice the elections, there are NO elections with the judges, and only illusions of elections. For example, if a judge is already on the bench, then someone does not challenge them.

susan January 22, 2010, 4:04 AM

Sometimes things are not as they appear. See the following article written by the child herself. (Childs name removed to protect her privacy)

——————————————-

Silent No Longer
The Other Side Of Abuse Allegations

by xxx

Editor’s Note: In recent months The Jewish Press published two articles by Amy Neustein the first a ,feature piece in the Family Matters section, the second an op ed column in which she recounted her longstanding allegations that her ex husband abused their daughter. Ms. Neustein’s daughter, xxx, requested this opportunity to respond.

Although I have not seen my mother, Amy Neustein, in sixteen years, I remember her clearly. She claims the reason she repeatedly accused my father in the media of sexually abusing me was to gain custody rather than fame. Yet when she did have custody of me long before the legal battles began I remember her voluntarily sending me off to live with my grandmother in upstate New York, after which I rarely saw her.

I remember, on one of my rare visits to my mother’s house in Brooklyn, watching her softly stroking her hair with an antique silver brush as she gazed at herself in her bedroom mirror and wondered out loud whether she was pretty enough to be famous.

I remember my mother sitting with me on the plastic covered couch in my grandmother’s country home at age five as if it were yesterday. We had been rehearsing for hours. She would begin by telling me a sordid and false story about my father, such as a detailed account about how he had molested me or about how he had thrown me violently against a wall. She then instructed me to repeat the story word for word until she was satisfied with my rendition. At the time, my father had indicated he would be filing for custody. My mother warned that if I did not tell these lies to the judge, I would be taken from my grandmother.

After my mother lost legal custody, I visited her once a week. During these visits, my mother used to tape record me and pose me for pictures in order to gain material for her next media performance. I fought back in the only way I could. Once, I chased her around a table in an attempt to snatch her tape recorder.

For eighteen years (I am now 24); I was silent as my mother spun lie upon lie about my father and me. According to her story, she is the victim of a conspiracy involving my father, Brooklyn Family Court, federal and state appellate courts, the Legal Aid Society, the Brooklyn Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, Ohel family services, and several leaders of the Jewish community. These co conspirators, my mother insists, punished her for revealing that my father had sexually abused me by taking me away from her.

The truth, however, is that my father never sexually abused me, and that reporters and alleged victims’ advocates who supported my mother chose to retell her lies without adequately checking the facts.

The reason my family and I did not seek media attention to counter my mother’s allegations is that we wished to maintain our privacy. My family believed that my mother’s publicity would fizzle out, and that it was best to avoid the media spotlight as much as possible so that I could live a normal life. But my mother has been relentless in her exploitation of me. Recently she embarked on another media tirade, and has published her false allegations in this paper and others.

The worst article I have yet to see this year contains my full name as well as photos of me as a child and as an adult, along with sickening and absurd lies about my father and me. Even if the allegations were true (which they are not), it is a widely accepted principle of journalistic responsibility and of everyday morality that it is wrong to invade the privacy of victims (alleged or actual) by publishing their full names and photographs. Kal v’chomer (how much more so) when the allegations are false. Such deceptive reporting is so damaging and hurtful that I feel I no longer have any choice but to break my silence.

I do not hate my mother; I see her as troubled. Nor do I seek revenge. I am only speaking out to stop her, and her supporters who profess to care about me, from continuing to exploit and torment me. With no other recourse, my mother has tried to counter my denial of her allegations by claiming that I am being brainwashed and used by my father and other alleged members of the so called conspiracy who “desperately fear public scrutiny and government inquiry”

Anyone who knows me well will vouch that I am independent minded and not the weak character my mother makes me out to be. The only parent who tried to brainwash me is my mother. The only people who are using me to advance their own careers are my mother and her allies. I vividly remember my mother sitting me on the couch at age five and coaching me to lie about my father. These are my memories and not anyone else’s.

I do not profess to know how typical my story is. I hope it is the exception and not the rule. However, the research involving allegations of child sexual abuse in court custody cases indicates that false allegations can occur in anywhere from 2 percent to 60 percent of such cases, and so it is far from an exact science. In these instances the accuser can often be the most vocal, the most sympathetic, and thus the most believable: But sometimes the real victim is the accused. And the one who pays the biggest price of all is the child. What I have learned from my case is that you can find “experts” to say anything, and that journalists are sometimes more interested in a good story and don’t want to be confused by the facts.

The damage caused by the irresponsible reporting and advocacy of my mother and her supporters extends beyond my family. Not only have they stained the credibility of the victims’ rights movement they claim to speak for, but they have diverted attention from the true needs of children in the family court and child welfare systems by misrepresenting what I, and similar children, required. What I did not require, contrary to my mother’s claim, was for the family court to be opened to the media.

I, for one, owe my existence as a normal young adult to the family judges, Ohel foster care, and the Legal Aid Society attorney who helped me reunite with my father in the face of considerable opposition in the media.

Most of all, I am grateful to my father for the sacrifices he has made for me over the years.

Steve January 22, 2010, 8:44 AM

@Susan. Thanks for attempting to “steer” this story away from what it’s truly about. That is exactally what abusers do. Well, instead of “one” story that happened 20 some odd years ago, here is a whole website dedicated to children victims.
http://ca3cacaca.blogspot.com/
Don’t take away from the reality of TODAY’S problems, bringing up stories of past. TODAY is the issue, children not being heard is the issue, mother’s losing custody to the abusers is the issue, courts making money hand over fist denying children their rights of due process is the issue. Civil and Human rights being denied is the issue. If evidence, truth and justice were a part of child protection in custody, no child would be affected. Period.

Katie January 22, 2010, 5:34 PM

Our court system here in PA is known far and wide as corrupt. Judges hand down orders that are not what the litigants mediated then refuse to correct them. Judges tell the litigants to do some legal maneuver then deny the paperwork. Judges believe the lies and use the system to further abuse mothers attempting to protect their children. In my own case, my ex was only charged with 2 counts of indecent assault for child molestation but wasn’t put under Megan’s Law, nor was he charged when he admitted to CPS to pursuing the 10-year-old to rape her. He ignored my children for more than 8 years, then filed for full custody so his new wife (he met on an on-line chat room then lied to for more than five years, she, who tried to force my kids to call her “mom” even before they married) can play mommy. The judge has believed all the lies, refused to hear my numerous witnesses to refute the lies and prove contempt on my ex & his wife, and ignored me on the witness stand only to give my children (who are unaware of their father’s full criminal record plus his lying, manipulating, and thieving character) to my ex on overnight visits every other weekend - with his wife (who doesn’t believe CPS who told her of her husband’s crimes) supervising! His wife has called CPS on me, verbally cut me down with my children, and called agencies and sent emails signing my ex’s name claiming my children as her own. My ex doesn’t believe he’s done anything wrong nor do rules apply to him. He blatantly violated the court order numerous times-especially the one to keep the children out of the middle of the custody battle and the judge refuses to level contempt charges on him. It has become so bad, my lawyer has given up! I work part-time jobs and cannot afford a fancy lawyer to fight him, her and the corrupt judges in our county! I know several other single mothers with similar horror stories, plus where to find lawyers who refuse to take cases in our courts! HOW ARE WE MOTHERS TO PROTECT OUR CHILDREN IN THIS CORRUPT SYSTEM??????

Carmen January 23, 2010, 5:14 PM

Women have always had to fight for justice. Our ancestors fought for the right to be free, to vote, and the right to be separate from a man. Today the fight is about equal pay, complete control of our bodies, equal power and the right to be mothers for the children that we brought into this world. This quote, although written many years ago, is very applicable. The legal fight is still on; we MUST come together, organize, and move it forward.

“If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground….This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them; and these will continue until they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”

- Frederick Douglas Letter to an abolitionist associate, 1849

shivers January 26, 2010, 8:27 PM

It makes one wonder that in about 10 - 20 years time if we will see an increase in litigation suits by the children who have been ignored and/or treated badly by the courts and placed in the hands of abusive parents (mostly their fathers).

First there is this: “There’s an assumption that maintaining a child’s relationship with the father is a good idea — even if the father is abusive,”

Then there is this: “replaced it with the “Best Interests of the Children” doctrine”

So, the judicial system gets it both ways. They have their cake and they eat it too. The best interests of the child is that a relationship must be maintained with both parents, regardless if one of the parents acts abusively towards the child or towards the other parent of the child. It would seem that this type of parenting is not important and is irrelevant to parenting!

Commenter Brenda said that she didn’t think we can protect our kids from abuse, and you know what, I’m rapidly coming to that conclusion myself. I’m in the middle of witnessing a system that has failed to protect me and my daughter on a number of levels. The forces are too great, despite a couple of wonderful social workers who have helped and who continue to do so.

I’m experiencing abuse by him using the judicial system at a number of levels. I’ve also witnessed turn-around attitude after a Child Protection Officer interviewed the father, it was clear that he had charmed and influenced her. I’m in the middle of the abuser now having “charmed” a Child Support Agency Officer and despite it being against their laws and guidelines, he has been exonerated from paying. Sure, I can object to all these things, but one risks being labelled “a woman with a mission” or “hysterical” or whatever.

I’m rapidly learning that we cannot protect our kids from someone who has revengeful intent. Once a person is out for revenge, the system actually becomes another tool or puppet for them. This is where the judges and higher officials of the court are completely unaware of how they are used and manipulated as nothing more than implements and weapons of choice by someone who is intent on revenge on their ex and know how to really get where it hurts - through the children.

If the courts and the people who operate it’s system weren’t so arrogant, self-righteous and convinced that their way is right, they’d see through the ruse and see how they are manipulated by these very clever abusers.

Anne Caroline Drake February 12, 2010, 6:12 PM

Impressive article and interesting comments.

If you are a woman trying to protect your kids from an abusive dad, I highly recommend Nancy Carroll’s web site: RightsforMothers.com. She has a wealth of information and expertise.

I also strongly recommend packing a courtroom with court watchers wearing purple ribbons. You’ll be shocked at how effective this is.

The Family Violence Prevention Fund provides judicial training which, sadly, too few judges receive…most don’t even know it exists.

The other harsh reality is that too many judges are abusive behind their own closed doors.

Anne Caroline Drake, MBA/JD

sheila February 19, 2010, 3:18 PM

I am so thankful to have read this article. I felt I was alone - really. I bought what the judge said about me in court when I was alone without council, broke, humiliated, at wits end, and missing my 2 young girls tremendously. I lost custody, property, personal items, any financial assets, long time family heirlooms, my job/career, and friends.

I have yet to see my children but am hopeful that my visit tomorrow will come to fruition. I just haven’t functioned properly since they have been kept from me.

Accused of child abuse, kidnapping, chronic drug addiction, alcohol abuse, fortune digging, career apathy, and the kicker - mental illness, I got little more than the clothes on my back and 2 hours of court ordered professionally supervised visitation per month.

It’s been nearly 6 months since I saw or heard my children. I live in a small town and can’t go within 100 yards of the center of it - as well as the house, a block away from me I used to live in.

I fear for my children not the horrifying abuse I read here and know of from my own personal experience, but the more subtle abuses that take their toll on young minds too. Just the action of keeping children under 6 away from their mother and telling them she is sick and doesn’t want to be around them while she is trying to get better is to me criminal. I just thank God it isn’t more than that - as far as I know.

Well, thank you all. I am looking for the strength to fight and have let too many weeks/months pass while I got lost in my head. Any pro bono atty’s in northern nevada?

Stacey  February 22, 2010, 5:26 PM

I myself am a divorced mother of three boys. This article was very helpful but so heartbreaking at the same time! I feel so sorry for the children in these situations. I don’t understand the legal system at all!

maria February 23, 2010, 6:27 AM

the court gave custody to my ex-husband on our 3 year old daughter. she was only 1 1/2 year when her dad and i separated. i moved to a different state after that and wanted to take my daughter with me but can’t. i was the one that took care of her when we were together. the court ruled that her habitual residence is california. her dad gained custody of her even though he cannot take care of her. he brings her to daycare and the daycare takes care of her most of the time and it is devastating to me. i now have a second daughter, 5 months old and is a stay at home mom and in a very good, stable home where i can raise my 2 daughters together very well. what bothers me most is that he barely have time for the kids and the way he disciplines his children ( he has 2 kids from a previous marriage as well )as he bops them hard on the head and i watched it and had to stop him. i am not sure if he does that kind of discipline on my daughter but he may be still doing it. during my visit last january, i saw his older daughter bopped my 3 year old on the head. it made me very upset. i do not want my daughter or anyone to be bopped on the head especially hard. is fixing to go back to court so my daughter can at least visit me here and eventually gain custody. there is just no reason why she can’t visit her mom. every time i visit her she always wants to go with me and i am in a better position to take care of her.



Francesca February 27, 2010, 5:53 PM

I know Linda Sacks and the gov’t is targeting all children including my child. They “legally Kidnapped” my child out of a hospital bed where she had an ear infection in the hands of foster parent who conspired with the GAL and doctors to steal my only child to give to the foster parents sister to adopt. REALITY CHECK
THERE TAKING ALL CHILDREN IF THEY FIT THE RIGHT CRITERIA AND WE NEED TO FIGHT FOR OUR CHILDREN

MH SoCal March 3, 2010, 10:29 AM

To help keep this in perspective, my ex, used the DV laws as a weapon to get custody. Here is the press release:
“A local resident of the City of Santa Clarita, CA, an African American Father is sentenced to 180 days in jail for calling to speak to his kids.
A Southern California resident and father of 2 teenage boys is arrested and held on $200,000 bail on three misdemeanor charges that should have been handled by the family court. There is no history of domestic violence, no child abuse, no alcohol or drugs, no 52 week batter’s or anger management program, no traffic violations. There are no contempt of court charges or sanctions against him from family court. But yet his estranged wife is armed with a 5 year criminal protective order because she “fears for her life”. It is based solely on her word. Her documented history of lies and false allegations are ignored.
After a jury trial lasting 11 days, the jury could not decide whether he had moved too close to his estranged wife (she moved across the street from him & the kids 3 weeks after the restraining order is issued). The jury found him not guilty of picking up his oldest son when his estranged wife had detained their son for 3 days. Dad had 90 / 10 custody. He was found guilty for not throwing his son out of his home when his son ran away because his mom refused to let him speak to his dad as ordered in family court.
One of the most ironic events is that the criminal court judge states that the case is NOT a “domestic violence” case. He instructs the attorney’s and jury that it is a “domestic relations” case, but yet no evidence of her extra marital affair is allowed to be presented to challenge her credibility. Her marital infidelity has nothing to do with a “domestic relationship” in the eyes of the court. Of course with the instructions given to the court no evidence of domestic violence is presented either.
“I am calling to speak to the kids” is dad’s behavior that the criminal court judge used to sentence him as a domestic violence offender. Not only is this a non-violent statement, it is contact that was ordered by the family court. Doesn’t matter though, dad must go to jail. He spends 45 of the 110 days in solitary confinement as a domestic violence offender. His appeal of the conviction will take at least a year.
This is just another episode in a long drawn out divorce case that began when his estranged wife alleges domestic violence and he is removed from the home in front of the kids and yet the mom doesn’t move-in. She does this to disrupt and create instability with dad and the kids. Dad had full custody at the time. She had abandoned them to spend the rest of her life with the principal of a local elementary school. She goes to family court to request (and it is granted) a domestic violence move out order one month AFTER she moved out of the home (including a change of address with the post office). The court assumed the kids lived with her, they did not. The courts are willing to throw both the dad & the kids out of the home. It took several minutes to try to explain to the court that dad, not mom, had custody. Three hours later the move-out order is dismissed, dad returns to the home with the kids and mom moves back out returning to live with her ex boss.
This matter should have never been escalated out of family court. Over the past 2 years, dad’s requests for mediation are ignored; his plan which kept the kids together, provided ongoing contact with both parents, and is consistent with the wishes of the children is ignored; the children’s testimony and declarations filed with the court are ignored; his request for a custody evaluation is denied. Court appointed minor’s counsel refuses to speak to the kids and refuses to develop a parenting plan in over a year. Not surprisingly, she is replaced as the children’s attorney days before the trial. There are no contempt of court charges, no sanctions against dad from the family court. There is no domestic violence, no child abuse, no drug or alcohol abuse, not so much as a traffic violation. It becomes clear that the court believes jail is the only thing an African American dad is capable of understanding. He must go to jail. This is another method to remove dads from the lives of his sons and give his estranged wife custody – based solely on allegations of domestic violence!
The cost to California tax payers to convict dad of “calling to speak to the kids” is as follows:
- An 11 day jury trial & numerous court appearances
- Transportation to/from the court house and county jail
- Meals and Rx meds for 110 days in custody (in an already over crowded jail)
- Increase in unemployment, now that dad has lost his job
- Increase in draw on government services now that he has lost his home
This dad hopes the next time you hear stories of absentee or dead beat dads in California you pause and ask is it by choice or force and how much did it cost me as a taxpayer?”

Angela Johnson April 6, 2010, 11:39 AM

I just finished a nightmare custody battle that began in 2003 and went head on from 2006 to 2010 (now). I felt like I was sitting in courtroom with 3 malicious monsters! The ex, his attorney and the Judge.

I wasn’t married to him thankfully. I saw the true monster he was. He’s been self employed since he was 18 and has never filed tax returns. I am a working Mom and always pay my taxes! He admitted to drug use since he was 16 and is now 43. He admitted to abducting her several times. He had a 28,000 child support arrearage judgment! The Judge in the end wiped out ALL child support arrearage and is making ME pay 10,000 of his attorney fees in 90 days!

He constructed 5 years of tax returns for show in court. Gross was almost 1 Million dollars with a net of 2,000! He has 2 homes, 2 trucks, a motorcycle and a safe in his house with thousands of dollars. 4 bank accounts and he changed his company name 3 times in the last 2 years. I am now financially destroyed.

My lease was up end of February and I was desparately trying to find a stable and safe home for me and my little girl that I could afford. His attorney will be wage garnishing me for 25% any day. They KNEW I needed to move. I have communicated this for months.

Now I have and now they are taking me back to court because I didn’t wait the 90 day notice. He wants me in jail. I lose job, my house and then I guarantee, my daughter. They harass me daily on how I better show him and his attorney respect or I’ll pay for it. I can’t take it anymore.

All of this has nothing to do with my beautiful daughter. He never even paid attention to her prior to the court hearings. It’s all about money with him. When he gets his visitation, he leaves her with the neighbor even through the night or gives her to this crazy woman that is obsessed with him.

This Judge has destroyed me. A great Mom, my daughter is everything to me and I work hard. And then you have this *&^%.

God help me get through this.

Dora April 19, 2010, 12:14 PM

Unfortunately, there are so many women that play the system by crying wolf that its hard to tell when someone is really in trouble. The real bad guys here are all the women who cry abuse when there was none present to try to get a better edge in a custody battle, or just to mess with their ex, or, in most cases, so they don’t have to be the bad guy. Here’s an idea, know the man you’re about to make babies with. If a man is abusive, don’t sleep with him! If he rapes you, call the police. Don’t marry him. Leave… before you lay on your back and make babies!!


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