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):
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.
Now (May 2014)
I closed my family court case out in January 2014 (by mutual agreement w/ex after HE lost custody last Fall by the very court professionals he hired who took them nearly three years ago from me, their mother, protective parent, and the loving, happy, happy, safe, criminal-free home I provided them). I had no choice but to negotiate a mutual agreement with the ex because by that time, his “paid” professionals could no longer cover for him and his neglectful, negligent, abusive parenting, and I could not be considered as a fit alternative for custody once again because I owed guardian ad litem fees and face the very real possibility of jail for those unpaid fees. All this after nearly 10 yrs of my ex-husband’s abuse-by-proxy using the court system to beat and wear me down.
Although I have now freed my family of the appointed psychologist, who did nothing for my children and was on the county payroll for her “accounting services”, and, the guardian ad litem who performed NO sort of legal investigation or checking into the safety, welfare, and best interest of my children in the 2 years of her appointments AND the same guardian ad litem who kept me on restricted visits w/children 200 miles away from home, keeping me in a constant stranglehold with threats of incarceration for the matter of her unpaid gal fees the entire time.
In addition to the emotional and physical shock and horror, I was devastated financially, forced to live as an invisible, non-person due to the courts and these appointed “professionals”. I now find myself in the heartbreaking position of finally being visible as a mother to my youngest, able now, legally, to get my last child, my youngest, back in my care & custody (I’ve lost 2 other children to PAS with no assistance or intervention on the part of the courts or the appointed professionals), but am now facing the daunting challenge of re-building a semi-normal life, struggling mightily to regain footing financially, recupe home and rebuild my freelance title/legal research business before I can actually reclaim my daughter.
I truly wonder how many other similar, sick, sad stories are out there?
Bobbie (Still Here, and Still A Mississippi Mother)
FAMILY COURT NIGHTMARE – I grew up and into what I realize now was the calling and purpose of my life. I am a life-long southerner. I am sober-minded and law abiding and extremely loyal and proud of my Mississippi heritage and hometown. I have been a native “Coastonian” since 2005 (B.K. i.e. Before Katrina). I am a well-read,intelligent woman yet it took me over a year to fully absorb, accept, and define exactly what family court nightmares are. I am as expert on the matter as anyone south of the Mason-Dixon and that thought horrifies me. I wish to share this horror with others not to degrade our State or tear down …. I wish only to build up what is broken. First I must draw a line and paint a picture because it doesn’t appear broken at first glance or second look.
I wish to share this in order to see my children be noticed and freed from the invisible glass barrier that has separated them from the world. I will continue to pester, persist, write, call, mail, file, cry, and scream any words I can until I get them noticed and recognized. I have to. I am their mother, I am proud of them, I cannot help them myself as I too am invisible. I have been rendered useless so far. But, I am still breathing. And I can pester, persist, write, call, mail, file, cry, and scream. That’s what Mississippi Mama’s do.
Please let me know if you would like to know more about my children and more about Mississippi’s children in need of justice.
(Excerpt, Writing For My Life, June 2013)
2013 – How We Got From There to Here (And Where We Go From Here?):
April 2013 –
This month was a turning point in our cause as it was the beginning of what I called being “noticed”, where I was successful in communicating, “volleying” I called it, by email w/guardian ad litem, for the first time in the year and a half since this gal’s appointment and her recommendation to the court to remove my children from my custody and place them in the full-time care and custody of my ex-husband in November 2011. My ex-husband had never been the primary caregiver for our children and had a criminal record, continued to abuse drugs, and had irrefutable, questionable moral and ethical issues that continued to be detrimental to all of our children.
My youngest child, my daughter, who was 12 years old by this time in April 2013, was continuing to show signs of great distress, mentally, emotionally, and physically, her schoolwork and behavior continued to be a cause for alarm and was documented by teachers, and I notified the court appointed psychologist of this, as well as my ex-husband’s behavior toward my daughter which was increasingly threatening and abusive. He imposed extreme isolation upon her, monitoring all of her activities and phone use and/or had her older brother assist in monitoring and withholding her outside contact, as well as utilizing other relatives as well. The turning point for me came when my daughter related to her psychologist the details of her father threatening to kill the family pet, my daughter’s only comfort in the home, which was a cat she’d been caring for since she went to live with her father in November 2011. I persisted in my attempts to communicate regarding these events to the guardian ad litem as well as the court appointed psychologist. Up until this time I was not included in meetings/sessions regarding the children, having been banned by my ex-husband at the time he obtained custody of our children. I finally received a response from the court appointed guardian ad litem and began to relay more details, and accurate information she appeared to be lacking in, and documented how my ex-husband had recently frightened my daughter in his re-telling of killing a previous family pet, my dog, by shooting it in the head after our separation and divorce. These details were traumatizing to my daughter and her father laughed about these events.
This month was crucial in that with these details and my newfound attempts to communicate with teachers, the court appointed psychologist, and, the guardian ad litem, I at least began to engage the guardian ad litem in communications with me. I also brought to everyone’s attention the facts regarding my ex-husband’s continued drug use. The children had photos, and sent them to friends, of a bong that was sitting in plain sight on the patio at my ex-husband’s home, and photos and videos of other disturbing sights and sounds occurring in their father’s home.
Many incidents had occurred up until this point re: the disturbing events occurring at my ex-husband’s home, his behaviors that were not in the best interest of the children, the lack of parental supervision at my ex-husband’s home, underage drinking, suspected drug use, teen parties that were allowed in the home unsupervised, and other matters that were no longer going completely unnoticed by professionals, neighbors, other parents, etc. who were around my children while they were in their father’s care.
At this time I still continued to remain under limited, restricted visitation with my youngest child only, my son who was not yet 15 years old at the time having ceased visiting and/or communicating with me totally nearly a year prior, in May 2012, with no assistance or intervention on the part of the court professionals.
Once again, by April 2013, I had attempted, and did, relocate to this area and jurisdiction in order to be closer to my children, regardless of whether I was “allowed” to see them or not, and, in order to be closer to the jurisdiction overseeing our family court matters. I researched and monitored my own case and was active in all proceedings and felt this move was prudent in order to relieve the 200 mile trip (one-way) burden that had been imposed upon me since my children were taken from our home and hometown and placed in their father’s care and custody some year and a half prior. This continued to be extremely difficult for me as I had no support system or network in the area. At times, my day-hours visitation with my young daughter, every other weekend, were held in local parks, McDonalds, anywhere we could manage to visit … inclement weather made this very hard but we always managed and my daughter and I looked forward so much to those few hours every other week. By April 2013 I lived from one friend’s home to another, rotating in order to not become a burden upon any one family, while helping my elderly parents with their health and housing issues that had been, and continued to be, extreme and critical. By April 2013 I was thankful to have secured part-time employment at the Law Firm of a local attorney who remembered me from years prior. It was a start up and back into the field and area of my experience and expertise, title abstracting, and though it was not enough income to be independent and self-sustaining, it was a major turning point for me in that it redeemed me in my own eyes, and, in essence, redeemed the community around that had there-to-fore appeared to ignore my and my children’s plight. This somehow, perhaps inexplicably, came to me as some form of redemption of mankind itself that I sorely needed and was a great boost to my self-esteem and self-confidence, calming me so that I could re-group, prepare, and try to plan once again for the future. The trauma, grief, loss, and horror were still very real but by this time I felt as if I had been given a much needed breath of fresh air which fortified me, strengthening me to once again try to seek the truth, find others who had endured similarly, and, to begin to find and use my own voice again, for my children, for me.
Court Proceedings: April 2013 – My attorney was given an hour “oral” argument in which to plead his case once more re: the removal of the guardian ad litem, which was promptly denied by the Court, again. Sanctions were also imposed against my attorney, and, contempt fees against me. I faced the very real and imminent threat and danger of being incarcerated for the matter of the guardian ad litem’s unpaid fees. A hearing for this matter to address my incarceration was to be scheduled and noticed in the next few weeks.
Wouldn’t Know Your Own Child If You Saw Them On The Street? (In Memory of My Son)
“If writing of this helps another loving mother from marking a day in her own diary of life as the day in which she could not, and likely will continue not to be able to recognize her own child in a photo, then, somehow, it may all be worth some of the pain that went into sharing this, our loss”
03-08-14: Yesterday someone dear to me text me a photo of what I thought to be a picture of this person’s son and his prom date. I took a moment to admire the photo, and sent reply text, remarking on what a sweet, handsome couple these two young people were. After a brief pause, I received what I am sure was a difficult reply … that the handsome young man in the photo was my own son, Philip. Philip will be 16 years old next month. He was taken from me, from home, June 4, 2010, when he was 12 years old, against custody, and never returned. Philip and I have had no significant contact since, no assistance by family court professionals, despite the fact that we had a guardian ad litem and psychologist appointed by the courts to see to my children’s “best interest”.
I have only recently begun to speak up, publicly, to get any attention to our cause, and our case. I have, in fact, spent most of my time, energy, and resources battling to avoid going to jail for unpaid fees for the “unprofessional” professionals in charge of seeing to the best interest of my children, instead of fighting for my children, which has been extremely dispiriting but necessary and very critical.
I am sad, and ashamed, that I couldn’t do more for my children when they needed me the most and it has been, IS, extremely dispiriting but necessary and critical … you have to remain alive, and out of prison, of course, before you can fight to help your children.
All the most critical matters, addressing rights of parents, rights of children, reform, and oversight, laws, ethics, etc. all took backseat to issues of fees, and, sadly, as in other cases, children “age out” before any wrongs are ever identified, addressed, much less righted. And, so many community leaders, and others “in charge” are simply uncomfortable getting involved. From all I have learned, these are the primary reasons for which these issues, this silent epidemic, has been allowed to continue for so very long.
Yesterday, the realization of accepting that I was not even able to recognize my own child in a photo washed over me in a slow and steady crush.
Writing has been my lifelong habit, mostly a joy, and has surely been some positive exercise for me during times when I could not speak of the unspeakable, explain the inexplicable. During these past months I have written, and, slowly, I try to hone this habit. I confess that I recognize my writings can be too much, too overwhelming, to the reader, the listener. I try always to remain mindful of this fact and I recognize that I often fail. The things of which I write and speak eek of a pain and suffering on such levels that wears on the spirit of the reader, the listener, and my words, our story, has not yet had victories, redemption, which we all need to have in order to be inspired.
I share these things with the hope that all we have experienced, all the time and effort I have put into research, all that we have sacrificed and lost may not be in vain. I am learning to try to accept that going back is impossible (very hard, for a mother, for any loving parent) – that I will not wake up to be back in our happy home in Ocean Springs, with my busy, active, sweet, spiritual, loving 12 year old son and 9 year old daughter, with ever-revolving doors of friends, laughter, music, clutter, activities, dinner-time, and chatter … all the joyful noise, and chaos that makes up a busy, loving home. All I know to do at this point is recognize that we did indeed have this, it was no dream, and, nightmares have to end, one way or another.
I ask you to pray for my children, and for me. If writing of this helps another loving mother from marking a day in her own diary of life as being the day in which she could not, and likely will continue not to be unable to recognize her own child in a photo, then, somehow, it may all be worth some of the pain that went into sharing this, our loss.
Still A Mother In Mississippi
Please see forwarded email sent to a local Judge yesterday, 08-13-13:
My children are in desperate need. You know me, as well as my 80 year old father who’s practiced law in Mississippi for over 50 years. He has been as ineffective getting help for my children in Rankin County as my previous attorneys. And now we both face incarceration for different reasons, mine for guardian ad litem fees that I am unable to pay and never agreed to in the first place, his for his inability to pay sanctions imposed on him for what the court called a “frivolous hearing” (my previous attorney was hit with sanctions as well, in April 2012 for the very same reason). Both of them are very good, ethical attorneys, who had valid cause for seeking help for my children. I implore you to look over the information in this email. My youngest, Miranda Grace, just turned 13. She has begged to speak to anyone for almost two years. She was cut off from home, friends, neighbors, classmates, my family, and, most important, she was cut off from me outside of 12 day-time hours only, every other weekend, 200 miles from home. I have no criminal record, history of immoral or unethical behavior, no addictions, no psychological issues … I was in a much lower income bracket due to having to defend myself and fight to maintain custody of my children, which I did for eight years, until August 2011. Being impoverished is no reason to have your rights as a parent essentially terminated, is it? I’ve been campaigning for my daughter’s rights for nearly two years (my son Philip’s was given the same rights as an adult, by the court, with the help of the guardian ad litem, when he turned 14 years old. He was sexually active, drinking alcohol, using tobacco, for certain, and, it was rumored that he was in trouble with drugs as well. I lost the fight for his childhood in July of 2012. He is worth more to me, but, not to anyone else that has been involved in our case, or in his care and custody). Miranda Grace still has a chance for some semblance of a childhood, if I can convince anyone to listen to her, to me, to all of the teacher’s, law enforcement, others who have seen what is going on in her father’s home but can’t get past the court-appointed guardian ad litem in order to do anything about it. No one in the Rankin County Justice System seems to care about one, young girl who has been suffering, invisible, in plain sight. Miranda has gone through such severe isolation, and all manner of abuses in her father’s home, and even more so at the hands of the guardian ad litem. The gal has ignored my children since she made, what every one involved in our case now does not dispute, a very grave error by failing to investigate our case and recommending to the court that my children would be better off in the care of their father. Since doing this, in November 2011, the gal has been provided proof of, and subsequently ignored and overlooked, all matters pertaining to my ex-husband’s drug addictions and his unethical and immoral behaviors which he does not protect our children from, as well as his refusal to parent the children in any way other than to provide food and shelter for them, and, his obvious, dislike, animosity and hostility toward our youngest daughter, Miranda Grace, who’s crime is only that she still loves and misses me, her mother. Judge, I am sure you hear slander and accusations hurled between opposing parties every day but I beseech you to give me the benefit of the doubt, for the few moments it takes to read over this when I state that that is not the case here. I have always been discreet, and have never tried to slander and defame my ex-husband. This is likely one of the reasons he was able to effectively slander and defame me because I failed to enjoin in that behavior. His lifestyle is deplorable and hurts my children more every day. The fact that no one in authority is even available or concerned enough about them to investigate and hold him accountable for this hurts them as well. I fear they will never recover from these abuses in order to grow into the healthy, intelligent, loving and compassionate adults they were born to be. They are sweet children who need only for one person to care enough to investigate what they have been forced to live in.
I lost my son, Philip, when he was 12. His father kidnapped him, against custody, and filed what we all now know was a “false” sex abuse charge, in July 2010, in our Gulf Coast hometown of Ocean Springs, against a youth minister at the church that I brought my several children to on Wednesday nights. Though I was not a part of this charge, or horrible accusation, I bore the burden of assisting the OS police in their investigation, which took 15 months to get before the Jackson County Grand Jury, who promptly no-billed it due to lack of evidence. This one act on the part of my ex-husband destroyed more than my family, I am sure you can understand that. This act is what prompted Rankin County Chancery presiding Judge to order the appointment of a guardian ad litem in August 2011. None of these details are in our family court file. It simply leaves this important matter out entirely and moves into the custody switch after the gal’s failed investigation removed my children from my custody and from our hometown, and the two years I have spent desperately seeking help for my children, and for myself. My son has been completely alienated from me, with the guardian ad litem not only ignoring this as it occurred, she is indisputably complicit in helping my ex-husband. She has also failed to report his failed, court-ordered drug tests. There are so many things that she, and the court, has failed to do. I want only the opportunity to be allowed to offer the proof to substantiate these facts. I can.
My father is overwhelmed to say the least. He was also too emotionally involved too be of any help. He has suffered shock, sadness, and, it appears, some guilt, as if he is somehow to blame being unable to help me, his daughter, and his grandchildren, with whom he had never become very close with. I have never felt that he was in any way to blame but I have despaired of trying to encourage him to cast aside those feelings.
I have been in touch with everyone I can think of, and re-connected with everyone, again, at least once, in this two year period. Our jurisdiction should never have been in Rankin County in the first place. My ex-husband and I lived with our children in Harrison County until he filed for a temporary order in Rankin, July 2005, that I had kidnapped our children and moved away from Rankin County. That simply was not true and I have documentation to prove it. Our temporary hearing was set on the same date as Hurricane Katrina made landfall and the rest is legal-nightmare errors history.
I don’t know where else to turn. My parents are elderly and my youngest sister has depleted all of their funds and assets. I have found myself taking care of their needs more than focusing on my children’s. This is heartbreaking and avoidable. I have recently reached out to Jackson-area community, and our church friends, asking for help with Mom, and Dad so I can focus on my own family’s needs but this has been emotionally and financially draining for me and time continues to crawl by with no one addressing my children and their needs.
Please, would you at least consider these things and if you are able to offer any advice or suggestions, I would be very grateful. I sincerely thank you for your time.
Mother’s Day has not been anything real for me since the beginning of PAS of my 21 year old daughter, in 2007. All these years later, my 16 year old son has fallen into the alienation, WITH the help, or lack of help from the so-called court-appointed professionals, and, I now face my 1st Mother’s Day that my youngest, 13 year old daughter is showing solid signs of PAS and distancing herself. I do not know if I will visit with her at all this Mother’s Day. One child was like a surreal blow that I went into shock over, second child was agony and long-held scream of protest that kicked me into reality, frantically educating myself with how to battle PAS while battling courts, ex, etc., … the third and youngest child?… feels worse than death. idk … it’s worse than a nightmare and very hard to avoid feeling as if you have failed them all miserably. Divided we fall … the irony. I hope and pray for awareness and education in order to unite, RE-UINTE so many of us, the broken, severed families wandering around in so much pain. Prayers to all who are experiencing this same pain. It’s indescribable. And, many thanks, deepest gratitude to those who have been paving the way, forging ahead through all of this confusing nonsense ahead of us these many years, writing, studying, educating. Without them, without their putting a name, definition, to these atrocities, I believe I would have fallen through the cracks many years ago. God Bless You!
1. Accept that there is absolutely no such thing as a guarantee of speedy trial, representation, protection under the Law in Family Court.
2. The practice of debtors prisons is very real and is being carried out every day in Family Court Systems across America. You can be jailed for professional fees (i.e. appointed guardian ad litems, psychologists, special advocates, mediators, evaluators, etc.) even if you are a safe, fit, and loving parent, regardless of whether or not these professionals even perform their duties … more on this topic later.
3. Be prepared to learn more about Family Law (Federal AND State) than you ever dreamed possible. By the time you are through you will likely know more than your own attorney but it will have been worth it, especially if you do so BEFORE any final hearing.
4. Understand at the outset that a large proportion of family courts and court professionals across this nation who have been appointed, elected, and entrusted with protecting your and your CHILDREN’S rights, ARE corrupt and that this has been the norm rather than the exception for a very long time. The sooner you accept this sad fact the more ahead of the game you can become. Not ALL are corrupt, but many more than the average citizen is aware of. You have only to google topics such as bias corrupt family courts, abuse child custody, report complain lawsuits against attorneys, judges, guardian ad litems, court appointed psychologists, family court reform, etc. and you will find a WEALTH of information regarding these matters. It is rampant in every State in our Nation. This has now become a worldwide, human rights issue. Research headlines, personal stories, articles, lawsuits … knowledge is power.
5. Do not allow the opposing attorney, or, even your own attorney to strong-arm, influence, rush or shame you into accepting an appointment of a guardian ad litem, psychologist, or ANY COURT APPOINTED PROFESSIONAL WITHOUT first gathering referrals, credentials, running your own background checks, and, even checking into OTHER cases of said guardian ad litem, and/or psychologist … thoroughly review the list of the names offered you (it will very likely be a SHORT list!) – your life depends on this. You have the RIGHT to to take TIME to do these things, it’s a very important decision that you should be a part of. YOU EVEN HAVE THE RIGHT TO ALTERNATE NAMES OF PROFESSIONALS. Do these things before the gavel hits … please do not underestimate the importance of this.
6. BY INVESTIGATE … start by running a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) Request on ALL professionals involved in your case in the county of your jurisdiction. The purpose of this is to find out if, and what they have been paid as private vendors from county funds … you will very likely be surprised at how fruitful, and shocking, these requests are. This is an important way of following the money, finding serious conflicts of interest, improprieties. This is an easy request to perform, is not complicated for a lay person to do – more on this later. It’s also easy enough to run all professional’s names through your State’s Secretary of State database for corporations they own, are officers or holders in … again, it’s following the money. Please take these steps very seriously – it can change the tide of your entire case very QUICKLY and easily BEFORE any FINAL HEARING.
7. It is very important to go to your county court records and pull your own court file and go through it with a fine tooth comb … look for missing documents, evidence, incorrect or missing official stamps and/or dates on documents, hidden documents, stapled, etc. You’d be surprised how few attorneys take the time to go through your court file, and, you know your own file and case history better than anyone. Make notes, or better yet, ask for a complete copy of your file, and update it every few weeks, days even, if you can. Documents turn up missing, added upon, misplaced, out of order, “hidden”, etc. ALL THE TIME. This is less likely to happen if you keep up with your own case file and are constantly aware of any new or unusual additions, surprises. Also, keep an eye on motions, orders, etc., that are “quick-tabbed” and labeled by clerk’s, judges, attorneys, court appointed professionals … these are usually tabs put in place for quick review and give clues to the documents hurried “professionals” flip to automatically without taking the time to read your entire case. After all, that would require a lot a time and effort on their part … it’s just your life, and the lives of your children depending on them to do so … are you willing to take the chance that they are THAT invested in you and your child’s (children’s) rights, lives, treatment, case?
8. Find out how, when, yes, even IF, the court appointed professionals are communicating with YOUR attorney (again, you’d be surprised how often they communicate with only ONE side). Insist on copies of all communications between your attorney and the court appointed professional … you can dissect this information on your own time and will surely have more invested in it than even your own attorney. Very often, even “good” attorneys are naive to the manipulative, underhanded tactics “biased” professionals use in order to leave a party out of communications, correspondences, etc. and often end up blindsided, surprised, in court … leaving you, and your children, no recourse (aside from time-wasting threats of appeals, reversals, re-considerations … you’ll likely all be too old and tired to make it that far …. very few do, believe it).
9. Addendum to #8: It is also not unusual for court appointed professionals to make costly “mistakes”, hide communications and/or documents, or, send documents ”by error”, as in … “OOPS … I DON’T KNOW HOW THAT HAPPENED?… I THOUGHT I WAS USING YOUR/YOUR ATTORNEYS PROPER EMAIL ADDRESS?” … or, “I DON’T KNOW HOW THAT HAPPENED, LET ME CHECK WITH MY ASSISTANT”, or, “I DON’T KNOW HOW/WHY WE MISSED THAT?!” or “I DON’T KNOW HOW/WHY YOUR EX RECEIVED COPIES OF REPORTS AND YOU DIDN’T?!”. Also, it’s not surprising for the opposing counsel, or, your ex, to be on the receiving end of copies of your personal, protected, confidential emails, medical records, etc. which is extremely unethical, illegal, and gives reason for review, reversals, reporting, oversight, investigations and lawsuits. These are the only ways to change, for everyone. As you can tell by now, the list of excuses, errors, corruption, can be infinite … I just listed a few I have experienced personally. This section simply means, do not be surprised by ANYTHING, ask questions, find out who’s talking, who received what, what is going on, and, what they (court appointed professionals are doing, teaching, counseling, advising your children) … do NOT allow yourself to be shamed into thinking you are being overly pesky or paranoid. Easier said than done, I KNOW, but, I assure you, the alternative is much worse, much more final, much harder to bear, years and tears later. Ask the questions, even if they make you feel STUPID for doing so … remember what we teach our children? … There ARE NO STUPID QUESTIONS!
10. KNOW the HIPPA laws and do not fail to use them in your conversations with the court appointed professionals (this should be a given but turns out it is often a slam-dunk in getting their attention). It’s hard, but you’ll have to learn early own to stop letting these so-called “professionals” intimidate you into silence … you will not win them over with good behavior – remember, your good reputation and good behavior did not help you in the first place. And, it’s also possible the whole matter has been, or is being, decided well before you even enter the courtroom. This, too, happens ALOT. Again, do all of these things BEFORE any final hearing or it will likely take YEARS to get back on any solid ground with your children and, lawsuits, reporting, ethics, commissions, review boards, only come AFTER you’ve lost your children’s childhoods. You’d much rather have their childhoods.
11. Tape record any and all conversations with court appointed professionals. It will come in handy one day, and, this is the dawn of a new age … change is a-coming, faster now than ever, thanks in part to the use of newest technology and faster information sharing sources. Protect yourself at all times. Put everything in writing. Journal, diary, take notes as often as you can. Document, document, document.
12. Day of the week actually matters — Cry as you might, even if your child is in the hospital critically injured or seriously ill you will be a lucky one if you get even a notification from much less a callback from attorneys, etal. So it is highly unlikely to expect that you will ever even see the inside of a courtroom, even if there is a bona fide emergency situation that affects your children and their health, safety, wellbeing. I was given this very important piece of advice early on in my own court-nightmare and it has served me well in the years since, helping me conserve my precious energy and focus on other matters at hand. Learn, comprehend and accept, early on, that you will not be effective in getting anyone’s help or attention on a Friday and let yourself off the hook until Monday. If there are Motions or other matters pending before the court, you can pester your attorney all you want but they too, in most cases, are at the mercy of waiting on responses and callbacks, notifications, etc. none of which will likely not happen for them either on a Friday. I did not readily accept this bit of advice initially, but I kept it in mind, and after weeks of observation I learned that it was indeed applicable in my case and jurisdiction. I urge everyone to experiment with this, see if it is true nationally. Years ago I dubbed Fridays “golf-day” in order to regain some sense of control, inject some humor, in order to cope with the agony of the condition of waiting. Only others who have experienced the agony of waiting helplessly while your child is hurt, hurting, injured, abused, sick, crying for you, etc. can truly understand that it is hell on earth to endure. Accepting, for the meantime, the imposed limitations of the court and personnel will help you focus on what you CAN DO!
13. Have you asked how many appointments each family court industry professionals involved in your case (i.e. guardian ad litem, psychologist, expert, visitation supervisors, evaluators, etc.) handle in your jurisdiction. Not many of us are aware, at the outset, that this information is not reported but it is available and vital information for you to have.
14. Ask if court appointed mental health professionals, (i.e. psychologist/psychiatrist) are appointed in accordance with your (your children’s insurance provider). All too often this is not the case, forcing parent(s) to pay out of pocket, leaving many literally bankrupt, and/or eliminating one parent altogether from participating in counseling sessions, as happened in my own case, when the court appointed psychologist was paid, in cash, by my ex-husband. I was not privy to counseling sessions my young daughter received as I was not in any position to pay for this private psychologist’s steep hourly fees for “counseling” my daughter. This psychologist was chosen and appointed by the presiding judge. Another very important and damaging fact was that my ex-husband was paying the bill – and he was in a position to, and did, bar me from participating in our child’s counseling session. The psychologist concurred, which was definitely not in the best interest of my daughter.
15. Request, and be prepared to make numerous requests, regarding billing by court appointed professionals … they are often difficult, or next to impossible to receive, and are almost always inaccurate. Follow the billing, hourly rate, diagnosis code, etc. The importance of “billing” and how to use itemization of in checking for errors, provable facts for trial and/or complaints cannot be underestimated.
16. Ongoing Work
… 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.