Category Archives: family law

A Must Read re: loss of parental rights, pas, court reform, a Re-Post of Article

Thank you to the author, Jennifer Verraneault (May 03, 2014) from http://www.ctlawtribune.com/id=1202652965182/Guardian%20Ad%20Litem%20Reform%20Approved%20By%20Legislature?mcode=0&curindex=0&curpage=ALL&slreturn=20140503203106

 

excerpt:  Parents who are good parents are not seeing their children as a result of many things wrong with the way we do business in family court. Court orders are not followed and nothing happens to the offender. Time goes by and children miss their right to have a relationship with their parent. Parental alienation is very real and unfortunately, in my opinion very common in our family court system. I view our family court system as an enabler; attorneys, GALs, AMCs, judges, mental health professionals who call themselves consultants are all getting it wrong. We can spend tax payers dollars on giving, yes giving retired judges a very comfortable pension even if they only serve for three years, but we can‘t provide these same judges with the resources they need to help when they‘re on the bench. It doesn‘t make sense. I know there‘s a lot of good in family law but unfortunately, there‘s a lot of bad apples who have used our system to ruin it for children, parents and the good guys (full comment/article below):

Seenitall:
Thank you for your unbiased, educational and nice commentary. Just as we accuse GALs, AMCs, judges, mental health professionals and alike for being not so good; we have to admit that there‘s also some not so good parents who have been vocal and also silent throughout our cause to promote constructive and overdue changes in family court. Parents who have joined other parents to share their experiences, from my view, have legitimate complaints and concerns. Are there parents in which they may have some form of a personality flaws or disorders? Are some parents more vulnerable to personality adjustment disorders when they go through one, if not the most stressful and detrimental life experience ever? I am sure, however, for the vast majority of these parents I have met, none of what has been reported, researched, analyzed, scrutinized and so on rise to the level of abuse, neglect or a determination of being an unfit parent. We are not talking about DCF cases. Our most vulnerable children need a voice and this is not what our cause is about.

I will say, a lot of parents don‘t have the luxury, although it should not be viewed as a luxury but a right, to ask their children about their day or to spend precious time with their child because their rights have been ignored. Not only the parents right to care for their child, absent abuse and neglect, but their child‘s rights to have a relationship with their non-custodial parent have denied. All communication has been stopped, therefore have a telephone conversation is not even an option with most of these parents and children. This is very sad and it will end up being societies problem when these deprived children grow up to be adults. I understand your recommendation for parents to let the system evolve as we know it will, and to spend their energy and efforts on their children, but it‘s truly not that easy. Parents who are good parents are not seeing their children as a result of many things wrong with the way we do business in family court. Court orders are not followed and nothing happens to the offender. Time goes by and children miss their right to have a relationship with their parent. Parental alienation is very real and unfortunately, in my opinion very common in our family court system. I view our family court system as an enabler; attorneys, GALs, AMCs, judges, mental health professionals who call themselves consultants are all getting it wrong. We can spend tax payers dollars on giving, yes giving retired judges a very comfortable pension even if they only serve for three years, but we can‘t provide these same judges with the resources they need to help when they‘re on the bench. It doesn‘t make sense. I know there‘s a lot of good in family law but unfortunately, there‘s a lot of bad apples who have used our system to ruin it for children, parents and the good guys. Sorry for any typos.

Read more: http://www.ctlawtribune.com/id=1202652965182/Guardian-Ad-Litem-Reform-Approved-By-Legislature#ixzz33ctTcvoj

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VITAL for Protective Parents:

From — http://protectivemothersalliance.blogspot.com/2009/06/guardian-of-truth-newsletter-vol-2.html

… It is vital that, from the very early stages of the case, protective parents do the following:

Rely only on attorneys, physicians, and mental health professionals with documented training and experience in domestic violence and child abuse cases. General family court experience for lawyers, and general child custody and family therapy training for other professionals, is woefully insufficient for these cases. Attorneys who represent the abusers should be avoided, as their experience with abuse cases is generally counterproductive. Look for attorneys who truly understand the constitution, the rules of evidence, and the mental health field, and who are willing to challenge the system when it is failing. Stay away from lawyers who believe that the wise psychologist and the experienced guardian ad litem will always make the right decisions and we just have to trust them.

Object to any process where written reports are submitted by guardians ad litem, custody evaluators, or mental health professionals. Insist that all rules of evidence be followed, and fight to keep bogus theories such as parental alienation syndrome and the like out of evidence.

Always depose any professional who is going to have an impact on the case.

Insist that any attorneys who purport to represent the interest of the children, such as guardians ad litem, minor’s counsel, or law guardians strictly comply with the American Bar Associations 2003 Standards of Practice for Lawyers Representing Children in Custody Cases and any state rules with similar provisions.

Never waive objections to unlawful procedures, and always argue that the court must decide the case based only on evidence properly admitted where your due process rights of notice and the opportunity for a fair hearing before an impartial judge are preserved.

Never waive your right to appeal an adverse decision.

Where children are old enough to testify about facts and events crucial to proving the abuse happened, their testimony should be presented, but in a way that minimizes the stress. However, continued abuse is much worse than the trauma of testifying.

Always use the testimony of fact witness who have direct knowledge of the abusive events, the aftermath of the abuse, and parenting quality. Do not expect the experts to be sufficient.

Never ask the court to require the accused abuser to submit to a polygraph, a psychosexual evaluation, or any other such evaluation. These devices are incapable of determining if abuse occurred and this strategy will backfire.

The first step in protecting children is controlling the process by which their fate will be determined. Where the integrity of the process is maintained, the opportunity for the court to know and understand the facts is maximized. Thus, an unbiased judge who considers only what is permissible, should then apply the law correctly with good results ensuing. While there are certainly no guarantees here, to ignore these guidelines will almost certainly invite disaster.

 

Top Down or Bottoms Up … City, County, State, Federal Government Reform: Where We Start Matters Little As Long As We Begin

As convinced as I am that the Fed’s are abusing their powers, I am just as convinced, and urge others to explore solutions BESIDES AND/OR in addition to just giving MORE power to abuse to the many crooked STATE, COUNTY, and CITY politicians. All levels of government are corrupted from the lowest to the highest.  Those of us who have experienced family court abuse know firsthand how the judiciary fails our children, and state bar associations and review boards, investigative committees (IF your state even has oversight and investigative committees … many do NOT) look the other way or are so overwhelmed and incompetent they are waiting for HELP from higher authorities.  As it  stands, it really is the wild-wild-west, city, county, state and federal.  We must overhaul the system, bottom-up or top-down but it REQUIRES a complete overhaul.

I am convinced that is why change has not yet happened … we must organize, report, investigate, punish  and hold accountable and replace those who are corrupt.

WE (ARE) THE PEOPLE ….

How Parental Kidnapping Works (for the Abuser) — Writing For My Life, Nov. 2012

Date: Feb 5, 2013 9:27 PM
Subject: WRITING FOR MY LIFE:  Our Story (parts).Diary.Nov2012

Please see most attached Motion which is the most recent filing re: our Chancery Case in Central Mississippi, to remove the Guardian Ad Litem for my son and daughter.  The gal was appointed in August 2011  to investigate a sexual abuse charge my ex-husband filed against a youth minister in our hometown … a charge that turned out to be no-billed for lack of evidence some 15 months later, and, that never had any bearing on me as a mother, or as a fit parent to my children.  In addition, the gal was to investigate why my 9 year old daughter was hospitalized for insomnia, anxiety, and stress-related conditions in July of 2010, shortly after I retrieved her, with the knowledge and assistance from local authorities from her father’s home and hometown some 200 miles away from my and my children’s hometown on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  I picked up my youngest child who was hiding on the side of the road by her father’s home at 3 a.m.  after my young daughter and her 12 year old brother were not returned from a 4 day vacation with their father. The gal did no investigation into any of these matters.

After the children had been taken by their father, against custody, the summer of 2010, they were denied unmonitored access to communicate with me but my 9 year old was able to sneak a call to me after 6 weeks of forced, illegal separation.  Being frightened and confused, this child was alarmed and afraid and asked me to come pick her up right away.  Her father told her she would never see or live with me, her mother, again.

This parental kidnapping on the part of her father had been a pattern of their father’s every year since our divorce was finalized in March 2006.  I battled it as best I could, with no punishment or sanctions against their father, in spite of the fact that I had custody of the children.  I did drive the 200 miles to pick up my daughter from her father’s home after notifying the local PD who offered as much assistance as they could.  My son was not waiting outside.  I was advised to either wait and take my son  when he did come outside, as was my right, or, get assistance through the courts.  The police were unable to bodily remove the children from the residence even though my ex-husband was in direct contempt because I did not have a writ of assistance set out in our custody agreement which would allow them to do.  This parental kidnapping, and legal abuse of consistent, frivolous custody, contempt actions had been a pattern of my ex-husband’s approximately twice every year since our divorce was finalized in March 2006.

 

No WONDER we’re all losing our children down here – A Mother, Still, In Mississippi

From, Writing For My Life (2013):  Mailouts

Please store the copy/paste headline/information in your database, if you think useful …  this info routed from the AG’s justice site.  The Feds have been aware of,  investigating why so many parents/children are sent by the Chancery Courts to DHS program (in Mississippi) for the purposes of “supervised”, limited, restricted visits together …. meaning, not even impoverished and/or welfare families but average, middle to upper middle class families as well.  This inquiry stemmed from budgeting, accounting, of course…. the State paying too many employees overtime for these strange, weekend hours and it started to show in the budget/accounting, up throughout the levels of Government until it reached the Federal level?  I suppose money IS THE ONLY WAY to get the Feds attention, perhaps question WHY so many parents are placed under such harsh restrictions, supervised visitation, and, having to pay for this supervision by private means, or, having the taxpayers pay for government “supervision”.  And all this with a great majority of these parents having no explainable, legal reason for being placed under such restrictions.

At any rate, I was startled that so many high-up people in government, and legal professionals etc. were not even aware of these inquiries, investigations, ongoing lawsuits, etc.

And THESE are the people in charge?  No WONDER we’re all losing our children down here – A Mother, Still, In Mississippi

Random Thoughts: Can’t We All Just Get Along? Mothers, Fathers, to Unite and Snuff Out The Real Terrorists Who Are Profiting From Our Losses, Our Children ….

They (the money-grubbers in the “system”) have sat back, content in the knowledge that there is so much “gender” animosity, in-fighting, mothers vs. fathers, when we ALL know this began as a slow, gradual movement, where surely fathers suffered greatly in the early 70’s & the 80’s, until fathers began to unite, rebel, as they should have, invested money and called much attention to their plight.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to get a grasp on how that movement shifted into shared parenting, with the scales tipped (FOR THE MOST PART!) in favor of fathers … much sympathy was duly earned but now we have entered into a realm of in-fighting that has only helped the most disgusting corrupt of the corrupt content to line their pockets while egging on the conflicts in court, giving no thought whatsoever to the real victims … the CHILDREN.

It’s obvious that with the shift came the influx of the most corrupt of corrupt … the attorneys, the court appointed “professionals”, as the balance shifted, in most areas, to where fit and loving mothers began to lose children, horribly, inexplicably.  No real human being wishes to cause this pain on anyone, any loving, protective parent.

I am saddened by what I perceive to be the biggest obstacle, this division between which gender has or is suffering the most … there are sadists, narcissists, crazies in both genders … it’s easy enough to tell who loves their children selflessly.  We are ALL OVER THESE BLOGS, WRITINGS FOR OUR LIVES as I call it.  It’s heartbreaking and I fear it won’t end until we find ways to unite, pull together, in order to attack the REAL ENEMY .. those who are encouraging the sociopath ex’s (of either gender) to wage war in court in order to punish an ex-spouse by using the children.

It is my most fervent hope and prayer that we all soon unite, one with another, alienated, abused, mistreated, robbed, scandalized, broken, suffering mothers AND fathers, moms and dads, PARENTS!… IN ORDER THAT WE SNUFF OUT, EXPOSE, REPORT, HOLD ACCOUNTIBLE, PUNISH AND REMOVE FOREVER, ALL THOSE WHO HAVE BROKEN THE GREATEST TRUST OF THEIR PROFESSIONS WHILE THEY CONTINUE TO PROFIT FROM OUR, AND MORE IMPORTANT, OUR CHILDRENS, DISTRESS.

 

CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG AND UNITE FOR THE CAUSE?  WARRIORS, MOTHERS, FATHERS, PARENTS, WHO MUST RECLAIM OUR RIGHTS, OUR CHILDREN?  OUR FUTURE DEPENDS ON IT.

 

 

“Maternal Deprivation is inflicting abuse by severing the mother-child bond…” from research, Sept. 2011 (BEFORE fated gal appointment!)

Unethical treatment of women and children in family court & Maternal Deprivation:

Maternal Deprivation is inflicting abuse by severing the mother-child bond. It is a form of abuse that men inflict on both the mother and children, especially men who claim they are “parentally alienated” from their children when there are complaints of abusive treatment by the father.

Maternal Deprivation occurs when men seek to keep their children from being raised by their mothers who are the children’s natural caretakers,
seek to sever the maternal bonds by making false allegations of fictitious psychological syndromes in a deliberate effort to change custody and/or keep the child from having contact with their mother when there are legal proceedings.

In seeking to define this form of abuse certain common elements are found in the Maternal Deprivation scenario as follows:

History of domestic abuse that could be physical, psychological, sexual,  and/or social abuse occurring on or off again, occasionally, or          chronically which could be mild, moderate, or severe, including  homicidal and/or suicidal threats; Legal proceedings relating to abuse;
Hiring of “Fathers Rights” attorney; Use of “Hired Gun” mental health  professionals to make accusations of psychological disorder against the  mother and children in deliberate effort to excuse abuse and change  custody or grant visitation that is contrary to safety concerns (Another  name for these unethical professionals are “Whores of the  Courts“); Raising claims of “psychological disorders” against the mother  such as “Parental Alienation Syndrome” (PAS), Munchausen by Proxy  Syndrome, Malicious Mother Syndrome, Lying Litigant Syndrome,  Hostile Aggressive Parenting or any other mother-blaming  psychological disorder that can be used by the unethical professional to  re-victimize the victims; Infliction of “Legal Abuse” by continually and  excessively filing motions so that the mother continually has to defend  herself and her child(ren) causing financial and emotional devastation.  Can occur in response to child support legal proceedings as retaliation;

The intent of “Maternal Deprivation” is to punish the mother and the child for revealing the abuse and to falsely claim that they are not abusive. This very commonly occurs as there are more and more “abuse-excuse” parental alienation accusing professionals who use this scientifically invalid theory over and over to achieve specific goals of the person paying them.

Maternal Deprivation can also occur in response to child support legal proceedings. When occurring in this manner, Maternal Deprivation is a response to the financial demands as retaliation. Suddenly the father who had little prior involvement wants to take the kids half the time to avoid child support obligations, etc.

When the men are really abusive, they ask for sole custody and demand the mother of the child pay them. Although some people call this “Maternal Alienation”, a distinction needs to be made as the pro-pedophilia “Parental Alienation Syndrome” and the use of the word “Alienation” are most often used AGAINST battered women and abused children. There needs to be a distinction between the phony psychological syndrome and the intentional infliction of abuse on a mother and child by intentionally severing their natural bond. This distinction can best be made by NOT using the label of “Alienation” which will always be associated with the pro-pedophilia monster Doctor Richard Gardner.

Some of the characteristics of the especially heinous abusers who inflict Maternal Deprivation include but are not limited to the following:
*Angry; *Abusive;
*Violent; *Coercive;
*Controlling; *Threatening; *Intimidating; *Demanding; *Domineering;
*Harassing;
*Stalking;
*Tyrannical;
*Oppressive;
*Forceful;
*Manipulative;
*Deceptive;
*Unethical;
*Un-empathetic(Lacks Empathy);
*Entitled;
*Immature;
*Self-centered;
*Neglectful;
*Guilt inducing;
*Pushy;
*Intentionally tries to humiliate mother and/or child;
….

 

Guardian ad Litem, Law Guardian, Legal Guardian … Who exactly are you? by Arielle Schacter

Arielle Schacter: Guardian ad Litem, Law GuardianLegalhttp://www.huffingtonpost.com/arielle-schacter/guardian-ad-litem-law-gua_b_821719.html

Guardian ad Litem, Law Guardian, Legal Guardian … Who exactly are you?

Arielle Schacter, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of bf4life-hearing

Posted: February 23, 2011 11:30 AM

Guardian ad Litem is a fancy legal term that is quite difficult to define. People may be confused and believe that it is a parent who is given custody; others may believe that it is a cross between a Guardian and a lawyer. The true definition of a Guardian ad Litem is murky at best. Through my research, I have come across countless names, definitions, and ideas on the role of a Guardian ad Litem with each contradicting the other.

From my own experience, I understand the frustrations that relate to the usage of theGuardian ad Litem. When my parents began their divorce in 2007, I was in the eighth grade. Within the first several weeks, I met my Guardian ad Litem and was so confused about what I would need a lawyer for. I wasn’t the one getting divorced; my parents were! It would take writing this article to understand the role of a Guardian ad Litem.

In brief words, a Guardian ad litem is a fancy legal word that is synonymous with a LawGuardian–a lawyer appointed by a court to act in a lawsuit or a divorce case on behalf of another party, in this case a minor. When I first met my Law Guardian, I explained to her my situation, my desires and my dreams of how I wanted my life to be. My lawyer explained to me that it was her role to convey these desires to the Judge.

I never realized how complicated my life was going to become over the next two-and-a-half tumultuous years of my parents’ divorce. I found myself lost in an ocean of confusion with no one to guide me. My situation at home had become complicated. I often communicated to my lawyer that I wanted less time with my father and she, my Guardianad litem who is paid by my father, passed on to the Judge not my interests, but rather contradicted them with my father’s and her wishes. Furthermore, I was faced with my lawyer no longer acting as a lawyer, but rather a parent, a psychiatrist, a travel agent and an enemy trying to hurt me every step of the way.

As a parent, my lawyer tried to decide where I shopped. As a psychiatrist, she diagnosed me as suicidal and told that I should be placed in an institution. As an enemy, my lawyer told me that “I would be responsible for my family going up in flames … My mother lost $10,000 because of me … I am using a giant ax to swat a fly … [I was] not a sane person … My father could institutionalize me.” I am not suicidal, nor am I having suicidal thoughts; however, it is hard to prove such a thing when my lawyer tells the court that I need to be placed in an institution.

After one too many impossible conversations with my lawyer, I realized, after a year of filing complaints with the Bar Association and trying to learn what a Law Guardian is supposed to do, I still had no idea what the role of a Law Guardian is and nor did my lawyer. Clearly, they do not teach lawyers how to be psychiatrists in Law School. There is no legal training oversight; no one is watching to make sure the law guardian acts ethically. Also, if the problem at the end of the day is Person X, who also pays the bill for the lawyer, the lawyer may feel inclined to represent Person X rather than her client.

In order to deblur the fuzzy lines of the role of a Guardian ad litem, I decided to interview Janet Fink, The Deputy Counsel of the New York State Unified Court System to answer the questions that puzzled me:

What is the specific role/ job of a law guardian?
The specific role/ job of the law guardian is to represent the child’s wishes and convey them to the court. The exception is if the child is unable to understand anything. Then the lawyer’s judgment will be substituted for the child’s. Another exception is when the child has “special needs.” This is decided case by case. In 99% of cases the lawyer represents the child similar to a lawyer representing a client.

What age does a child no longer need longer need a law guardian?
There is a growing national trend, where a young person is beginning to be able to represent himself/herself in court. This is taken for granted in juvenile court. The age that a child should be considered unable to understand anything is approximately 3 or 4 to 7 or 8.

Can a law guardian make decisions?
No. The only exception is when the child is unable to understand anything and then the lawyer’s judgment will be substituted for the child.

What oversight is there over the law guardian process – including recommendations and payment? 
There are two forms of oversight on the law guardian processes in NY State. First, New York is divided into four departments; each department has an Appellate Court. Every Appellate Court has a law guardian program advisory committee, which screens the law guardians. Every year, the law guardian must be recertified. The divorce court will then appoint a law guardian for the child. Second, a law guardian may have a contract with Legal Aid Society or the Law Guardian Society, which hires, trains and disciplines lawyers on how to be a law guardian.

How can you ensure the law guardian is actually communicating/ representing the child’s interest, if the child is not present in the court?
The law guardians are given training. If there is a problem, a parent may raise an issue; however, the other parent or the attorney may tell the court that the real problem is parent is trying to gain control of the child. This causes a problem since it is hard to separate a positioning-for-power argument from an actual problem.

How can a legal a guardian deem a child impaired – is there a test?
No, there is no test. It is decided case by case.

Can a law guardian advocate for what they believe a child should have, if the child does not want it?
No, it is the Judge’s job, not the lawyer’s job, to decide what a child should have, even if the child does not want it. The only exception is if the child is incompetent to make his/her own decisions. The lawyer’s job is to assert the interest, not deem the child’s interest.

If there is domestic violence, does they law guardian have a responsibility of communication the issues to the court?
A lawyer’s personal ethics may not have any influence. First, if the child does not want the lawyer to tell the Judge, the lawyer cannot tell the Judge. A lawyer is not like a doctor who is required to report all incidences by law. Second, if a child is only three years old and there is child abuse, the lawyer should put the medical records before the court in the interest of the child’s safety.

Should the law guardian be allowed give input to ACS during an investigation (because if you feel she representing X, she could downplay the issue)?
The caseworker will talk to the child personally to investigate. The only time they may talk to the lawyer is when they want information on the case from the lawyer.

How could a child terminate a law guardian if the child feels she doesn’t represents him/ her and if the law guardian refuses to submit her resignation to the court?
A child may terminate their law guardian three ways. First, a child may write a letter to the Judge asking for approval on the resignation law guardian. The new lawyer, chosen by the Judge, will be paid by the State of New York. Second, the child can contact the Law Guardian director in his/her county and file a complaint and for a new law guardian. Third, the child can contact Legal Aid society and file a complaint. If hired by Legal Aid, it would say on their business card, “Legal Aid Society.”

In the future, there should be clearer guidelines on the role of the Guardian ad Litem. Curently, there is a movement in the Legislative Assembly to change the name from Law Guardian to Lawyer of the Child in hopes of ending the misunderstanding of the role of the Guardian ad Litem.

There should be clear rules on how to define a child who is “impaired,” rather than being case by case. Does “impaired” mean that the child is too little, unable to walk, unable to hear, has a mental illness, has autism? By having a blury definition of what it means for a child to be impaired, the lawyer may try to overule the child’s wishes with his/ her own judgement and then hide behind the child’s “impairment.”

The rules should be deblurred, so everyone involved can understand the rules better. How can I ensure that law guardians, such as my lawyer, will understand their role, so that they do not overstep their bounderies, like my lawyer does?

 

A MOTHER’S LAMENT, by B. R. Hardin, Attorney, Father, and Grandfather

(The following is a letter written by a mother who lost custody of her two children, reminiscing of the times they spent together, their life in Ocean Springs.  Because her ex-husband could afford the children a larger home, and her inability to recover from her loss when Katrina swept the gulf coast, she lost custody of her children, and was limited to visits on an every other weekend basis, but only to the tri-county area of Rankin, Madison and Hinds, and no over night visitation, I suppose for fear she would remove the children from the jurisdiction of the court.  She spent her life’s savings, over $45,000 dollars in attorney fees and the fees of Guardian Ad :Litems appointed by the court to investigate and report their findings to the court for the purpose of assisting the court in determining the best interest of the children and which parent would be more suitable for their care.  The first Guardian Ad Litem gave her a favorable report and recommended to the Court that the children be placed in her custody, but the second Guardian Ad Litem, for some reason, chose her ex-husband over her, and the Court favored this last report and her ex-husband one out, mainly because, in her opinions, he had a large, lovely home in Madison County and had the funds to raise the children, whereas, due to her circumstances, she did not.  That was seven years ago and she has been fighting to recover their custody since that time.  This is a lament of her efforts and the pain that she has suffered in that pursuit. It is addressed to a dear friend and to her older daughter by a previous marriage.   It begins with the ending of one of her visits with her young, twelve year old daughter.)

“Tonight, as I drove Miranda back to Madison, stroking her hair as her head lay over the armrest, stretching toward me as close as her seatbelt would allow like she always does on those drives ‘after the visit is over’, I vowed to begin writing, again.  It is one of a few passions of mine for which I have slowly turned away from.  My other favorites were put away much more abruptly.  My present demeanor may be disheveled, at times, but my memory is as sharp as a tack, like it has always been.  I recount my life events by dates, sometimes even down to the hour and minute, of ‘before’ and ‘after’ events.  Fishing, which always included some form of beach walking and nature exploration (which meant cardio exercise and fresh air as a bonus), ended the last time I went with my youngest daughter Miranda.  I haven’t allowed myself to recreate that particular memory down to the time and date, but I know it was with her, and I know that it ended as abruptly as the day we were separated by a court order that wrenched us apart in November 28th, 2011.  Listening to music, especially bayou-zydeco and country-western, old gospel hymns, and really old country ho-down music that I was tickled to hear my kids sing to as well.  I had amassed quite of collection of downloads, cd’s, and 2 great stereo’s that I wired together … my talent for setting up surround-sound and wiring “outdoor” speakers in nooks and crannies along the outside of our home was acknowledged and admired by even the most manly men of neighbors and teenaged boys with jack-up trucks and booming sound systems (my kids were quite proud of their mom’s sound-wiring skills), and every night, summer, spring, winter or fall, we enjoyed sitting outside by a fire …. for just a few minutes to a few hours, listening to, and singing along to “our” songs.  We always seemed to have extra’s, company, whether invited or not … the kids friends, their friends of friends, their parents, our neighbors…. somehow, our music and outside supper’s became an international “welcome” sign in our yard and drew wanderer’s in like magnets.  The kids loved it and I never minded.  It was a peaceful, simple time and I take some comfort knowing with all certainty that I made mental notes all of the time to “stop, and ENJOY them”.  I am grateful for that.  My love of music listening, as well as my infamous “singalongs” was severely restricted after my 12 year old son, Philip, went missing, or, for a better term, was “parentally abducted and never returned”, June 4, 2010.  I continued to enjoy some music with my young daughter, Miranda, after that date, but it was limited to music that would NOT remind me of Philip.  It was difficult, but I made it work for the next 17 months, and Miranda and I found our “own” music that we belted out every day.  The music ended completely, November 28, 2011, the date my daughter was taken from me as well.  I have not been able to bring myself to listen, or sing, since then.  The world became very dark, and very quiet, and remains that way.  Music brought me great joy.  Yard work, and gardening, of which I spent a great deal of time enjoying in all seasons and was quite talented in and for which I took great pride in, ended when I boxed up my belongings with the help of my oldest daughter Jessica, this past April 2012 when the decision was made to end the burdensome, tiring 5 months of travel that had been unavoidable since the day Miranda and I were separated and she was ordered to live with her father in Madison Mississippi.  I struggled valiantly to keep up our home in Ocean Springs, waiting day to day, week to week, turning into month to month, chasing the “15-day reversal of opinion” I’d been assured was certain to happen due to the many errors and fraudulent claims made in court that led to the removal of both of my minor children, Philip and Miranda, from my lifelong care and into the care of their father.  As the days and weeks turned into months, and the certain “presentation of the real facts” and the “testimony of real witnesses that would at the very least show his contempt of court and have the judge make good on his promise to reverse his opinion and return the children to me failed to come forward, and with these failures, my dreams for keeping our home, our very lives as we knew it, began to dissipate.  In addition to the near-weekly frantic drives I made those first few months to Jackson to be near my youngest child due to her very real, very serious medical, emotional, and/or legal emergencies surrounding our case, it slowly became clear to me that I could not continue to “stay home” and keep house while driving to and fro.175 miles each way.  Looking back, that is one of several things that astound me… that I even managed to hang on to the dream for as long as I did. Yes, the gardening was a great loss to my spirit and my body… but, the real joy in it ended the same time the music ended, November 2011.  I continued to manicure my lawn, and fret over it’s condition after my daughters disappearance from our home in November 2011, but my heart was no longer in it and I gave it up completely when I boxed up our life and closed the door for good in early April 2012.  Crocheting, which I recently picked back up due to the odd timing of a double urging and suggestion of two important people in my life who have never even met one another, yet who each brought up the topic within the same 24 hour period leading up to this past Christmas Eve.  The urging was by a friend who coaxed me into attending a small Christmas gathering at her home the night before Christmas Eve, and the suggestion was made by my oldest daughter, Jessica, who mused about my ability to “create” the newest craze of baby beanie hats that is so popular and in demand among all her co-workers and friends.  I have been a longtime believer of there-is-no-such-thing-as-coincidence so I paid heed to the sign before me and picked up my crochet needle, junk yarn from the back of my truck, and, with some help from Google, proceeded to crochet intently throughout this very difficult time of year… Christmas without my children.  Christmas without my closest friends.  Christmas away from home.  Homesick, Heartsick, and … Christmas without my children.  Thank you, Arlette, and Thank You, Jessica.  Your blessing and gift to me put an idea and a desire in my mind that thankfully I did not turn away from.  It helped me survive the most hearbreaking Christmas of my life.  Little Blessings…. count them one by one:)”

Me (A Mother, Still, In Mississippi)

 

 

 

Miranda’s Mom — excerpt: Meanwhile, Miranda continues to be invisible. If left up to the powers that be she would remain that way.

Miranda’s Mom

July 2013

Twelve year old Miranda Grace was born August 10, 2000, and was taken November 28, 2011.  Miranda was bright, and beautiful, and remarkably talented.  She was artistic and creative.  Miranda wrote with insight, depth and a clarity that would give Robert Frost pause.  In the 4th grade, Miranda wrote a school paper on Robert Frost.  She wrote in the preface that she picked Robert Frost “because her mom liked him” and, because she liked the title for “road less traveled”, oh, and, because his name reminded her of “Jack Frost and Christmas”.

Miranda loved her Ocean Springs hometown and the simple life she lived there with her mother.  She loved her school, her teachers, and hometown football games on Friday nights.  She loved running the neighborhood at dark.  She really loved the few occasions that she and her friend managed to sneak away and walk to the harbor close to her home in Gulf Park Estates.  Her Mom did not find out about those times till much later, too much later to get on to Miranda.  Too much later to even care that Miranda broke that rule.  Way too much later for her Mom to even care than she broke the rule.  In fact, by the time Miranda’s Mom did find out about those times that Miranda and her friend had sneaked away to walk to the harbor with their fishing poles and cast net, Miranda’s Mom was not angry at Miranda … she was proud.  She cried at the image in her mind and thanked God that Miranda had gotten to do something so innocent, something she loved so much, something her Mom knew she would have never let Miranda do on her own in regular life.  She was glad to know Miranda had a chance to sneak away to the harbor and fish and hangout with a friend on a hot summer afternoon.  Kids don’t get to do things like that much anymore, her Mother thinks to herself, smiling and crying at the memory, picturing Miranda, her long hair flying as she runs, laughing and acting silly, goofing off at the harbor.  Her mom can hear in her mind the sounds of kids laughter and shouts, the sound of the water lapping against the harbor posts and shoreline,  the humming of small engines from the boats out in the distance … all those sounds separate and mixed together to play a melody in her mind.  Smells fade, pictures fade, the little details of people you love fade in your mind and dim more and more over  time, but these daydream memories haven’t faded, yet, and they both play them separately in their heads each passing day as seasons change and as the days and weeks and months just come and go.

Miranda had many friends and loved to comb the beaches, fish, swim, and, more than anything, she loved those frequent backyard gatherings at her own home, the kind that invariably drew friends and neighbors of all ages in to their backyard like fireflies on a Mississippi early summer night.  On these nights, a fire was always started and music was always playing in the background, at a neighbor-friendly pitch of course.  Ensuring plentiful graham crackers, marshmallows, Hershey’s chocolate bars and firewood was always the main focus of every single one of these evenings yet it never got tiring.  Each time was a new adventure.  Firewood was never much concern because of an abundance of lots throughout her large neighborhood, dotted throughout her large neighborhood, thanks to Hurricane Katrina.  In fact, gathering the wood was one of the best parts.  Miranda would never end the night until the fire did.  Sometimes, Miranda’s Mom would have to urge the fire out a little earlier than it wished just so she could coax Miranda inside.

Miranda Grace was taken, November 28, 2011, from her Mother, and her home, and friends, schoolmates, neighbors, so abruptly she never even got to say goodbye.  She never even finished wrapping the Christmas presents she worked so hard to purchase and had been keeping so secretive.  They lay half-hidden near the foot of her bed along with strings of ribbon and scatterings of bows, and wrapping paper, along with a pair of school scissors, tape, and all manner of artsy supplies that she kept stockpiled in her newly decorated Jungle-Themed room.  Miranda just simply left one morning and never came back.

Miranda never did get to unpacked her book bag from her 5th grade class Thanksgiving party..  Her book bag still holds evidence of that party and those happy 5th grade days that were cut so short.  There are still crumbs and sticky juice stains to see and it’s still cluttered with her artwork all crinkled and folded over.

Miranda was taken so fast she never even got a chance to put her tennis shoes on.

Miranda has been missing, in plain sight for nearly two years.  She is only 200 miles away from home but has not seen her room, yard, her friends, her neighbors, her beloved Ocean Springs beach and the Gulf of Mexico waters last she loved so much.   Miranda has been crying for home for 20 months.  She used to count the days but she quit at 465.  She wrote letters to teachers and counselors in the beginning.  She left notes in trees that she hoped would get back to the right people, people who could help her.  Some notes actually were found by people but they didn’t know what to do so they did nothing.  Miranda even called the police, once, but, would never do something that foolish again.  She suffered too much when the police left her where she was, without being able to help her more.  As soon as they found out Miranda had a court-appointed guardian ad litem their investigation was over.  Miranda couldn’t really blame them.  That’s what a guardian ad litem, and, also, a court appointed psychologist, was supposed to do for a kid.  No one tried to find out more about a scared girl that literally moved in overnight, who acted weird and was treated even weirder.  They all assumed the guardian ad litem was doing her job.  No one asked.

Anyway, none of this was anything like on tv when there were heroes who always helped kids and were the boss of everybody.  In real life the grownups acted confused but afraid to ask questions, or, they acted like the kid WAS the trouble.  Miranda learned this quick and vowed never to tell them anything again.  Even the teachers were different at this new place.  She was put in this school so quick … at her old school her teachers and the kids would at least ask a kid what was going on with them.   Here it was like they did not care.  That hurt almost as much as everything else.  Being nothing, to nobody.  Miranda could tell some of the teachers cared but just did not know what to do.  These hinted, at least, and they acted a little nicer to her than they did the other, “regular” kids.  They watched her cry, they watched her quit. They watched her go from scared and quiet to fighting all the time and quitting learning altogether.   

Miranda remembers the ones that were kind to her.  She’s never forgotten the ones who were not.  

Miranda knows it has to be the right person before she ever tries to ask for help anymore.  She wonders if God hears her prayers and she wonders why this is happening to her?

As Miranda’s Mom, I had a really hard time comprehending that I had been eliminated from her life.  It took months for me to try to understand and sort advice of those other parents.  I am still fighting to regain what I want more than anything on earth –  my place back in my daughter’s life.

With each passing day, week, month, it became more real and dreadful.  I began to accept things all I’d heard but rejected in horror.  Every single crazy, radical, outrageous thing those other parent had said has come true and my world has tilted on its axis.  I just wish everyone else’s would tilt a little bit too because I never dreamed these things could happen to someone like me, in our free and blessed Country.  That’s not sarcasm, I really mean it.  I love my country.  I love Mississippi.  I love country music and old gospel hymns and I’m a mutt, a mixed breed of at least 3 generations of Mississippians.  My father is a city boy from Richton, MS, my mother a cotton-farmer’s daughter from Lena, MS.  I grew up trolling through country cemeteries on Sunday afternoons with my parents, looking for our “ancestors”.  I loved that kind of thing.  I loved my upbringing and my heritage.  If I was naive and unaware these things could and do happen right here under our noses then I can give the rest of the Country the benefit of the doubt!  This is very real, and it really happens, and there are a whole lot more suffering, “invisible” kids, with suffering “helpless” parents out there than any of us would like to believe.  And they are hurting in plain sight.  It’s agony and torture and the grief is indescribable.  To have a child who suffers is horrible.  To watch them suffer and be totally unable to help them is worse than death.  I know because I am living it.

My 80 year old father also serves as my attorney now for the obvious reason – I am broke.  He and I both faced jail last week for gal fees and court sanctions.  We dodged a bullet that day, 07-15-13, but only for 30 days, recently extended to, 60 days and it’s soon pay or jail-time for me.  Yes, our county jails are often used for unpaid guardian ad litem fees.  

Meanwhile, Miranda continues to be invisible.  If left up to the powers that be she would remain that way.  

Miranda’s Mom did nothing wrong, nothing more than become impoverished over the 8 years since her divorce in Rankin County.  In that time, court costs, attorney fees, other guardian ad litem appointments, all cost her over $40,000 and is still adding up.  The judge even recently commented that if I “the mother” was too poor to afford the costs then I “the mother” have no business being in his courtroom”. 

Miranda’s Mom is not an addict, or a criminal, nor is she mentally ill, or unfit morally or ethically.  She has never been any of those things.  Miranda’s father has been all of those things.  Miranda’s father has a family with lots of money.

The modification hearing was cancelled because Miranda’s mom had not paid her portion of the guardian ad litem fees …. $6K plus some (and counting) used to be nothing to Miranda’s mother but it is now.  That’s about the same as asking a million.  It’s impossible.  Miranda’s mother didn’t even agree to the fees in the first place … the opposing attorney recommended this guardian ad litem, and, who told Miranda’s Mom and her attorney that his client would pay the gal expenses.  After all, it was only right as it was his client that was the reason for which this appointment was necessary.  His client had the parties back in court almost every year and sometimes twice a year since their divorce was granted some eight years prior.  Miranda’s mom reminded the gal of this fee arrangement very recently while she had a chance.  To her surprise, the guardian ad litem acknowledged this arrangement and then said to Miranda’s Mom, “too bad it wasn’t on record”.

This guardian ad litem has left a trail of horrified parents and damaged kids in our small-town county in central Mississippi, perhaps other counties as well.  I know these people may be well-known.  I am guessing that is why no one has been able to help Miranda, or me, her Mom, these past two years.  I have read much lately that has been publicized regarding government corruption and children’s rights, and I have seen that, sometimes, people speak up and help, for truth and justice.  I’m not asking anyone to take me at my word alone.  I am asking for an opportunity to present documentation to support the truth because I can.  I am asking for help putting a face to just one little girl’s name. A face to the name of one, young girl who has been kept silent far too long and maybe to one, very, battle-fatigued mom.

I am speaking up for Miranda, my now 12-year old daughter who was removed from my custody on November 28, 2011, for absolutely no reason at all.   My daughter lost the right to have a mother and I lost the right to mother the child I gave birth to. Miranda’s has fought so valiantly and for so long.  Her hope has dimmed but it still burns.  She continues to do everything she possibly can to help herself.  Doesn’t she deserve some chance to be heard?

Some part of Miranda still believes in heroes, in the good guys, and that help will soon come riding out of the hills to chase away the bad guys. Miranda’s only 12 years old. Another year or two and she may not believe in tales any longer.  That’s what I’m afraid of. 

I’m not sure but I’m wondering – are you the right person for Miranda to tell?

Sincerely Yours,

Miranda’s Mom