Mothers Of Lost Children – Indiana

Support for Noncustodial Indiana Moms

Archive for May 2009

When Battered Women Lose Custody

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This article is summarized in part from the article, Child Custody and Visitation Decisions in Domestic Violence Cases: Legal Trends, Risk Factors, and Safety Concerns (Revised 2007) by Daniel G. Saunders (saunddan@umich.edu), and published by VAWnet, a project of the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence/Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The article can be retrieved from their website.   See this source for a complete list of supporting citations. 

This is a very good paper, and should be manditory reading for all court personnel.

When a mother enters a visitation/exchange program as the visiting parent, workers may be quick to assume she failed as a parent or, worse, that she’s dangerous. After all, her referral to the center probably came at the end of a lengthy process of expert evaluation and court hearings. However, in all too many domestic violence cases, community systems have failed her. There is growing evidence that gender bias and myths about battered women stack the cards against them in child custody disputes. Ironically, their very attempts to protect their children may make it more likely they will lose custody to an abusive ex-partner. 

Slowly, battered mothers have received increased legal protections. For example, some states in the U.S. exempt them from mandatory mediation or make it easier for them to move a safer distance from an abuser. Approximately half of all states have a legal presumption that an abuser should not have sole or joint physical custody. In the remaining states, the judge must consider domestic violence in custody and visitation decisions, but as just one of many factors for consideration. Canada has no presumption in its federal law against granting custody to abusers and the law states that maximum contact should be given to the noncustodial parent. However, protections are increasing in some provinces through consideration of domestic violence as a factor in decisionmaking. Some provinces also apply conditions to temporary protection orders and order abusers into treatment as a condition of visitation. With new legal protections have come more domestic violence training and resource manuals for judges, custody evaluators, and others involved in custody decisions.

Despite this progress, misconceptions and faulty practice continue. One common misconception is that allegations of domestic violence are common in disputed custody cases. There is also no evidence, despite claims from fathers’ rights groups, that false allegations of domestic abuse or child abuse are common, especially from mothers. On the contrary, evidence shows that false allegations are rare. In addition, a recent comparison of mothers’ and fathers’ abuse allegations showed that mothers’ allegations were substantiated more often. Another misconception is that cases labeled as “high conflict” do not involve domestic violence. It is now clear that domestic violence is a current or past reality in the majority of these “high conflict” relationships. Domestic violence simply goes undetected in many cases, an oversight that increases danger to children and their mothers. 

More alarming are findings that, even when detected, domestic violence is often not considered or taken seriously in court decisions and mediators’ and evaluators’ recommendations. A 1990s study found that custody evaluators did not consider domestic violence to be a major factor in their recommendations, yet they often considered parental alienation to be crucial. In a more recent study, evaluators reported that domestic violence weighed heavily in their recommendations, but only a third of them attempted to systematically detect the violence. The impact of the violence must also be considered. Psychological and custody evaluations can be misleading when a survivor’s trauma history is ignored. Her traumatic stress symptoms can mimic severe mental illness or personality disorders. Survivors are usually at a disadvantage due to the effects of overwhelming stress, not only from domestic violence, but from the intense fear of losing a child to an abuser.

Several studies show that knowing the history of domestic violence appears to have little influence on judges’ decisions and mediators’ recommendations. A likely explanation for courtroom outcomes is gender bias. Gender bias commissions over the last decade report frequent, negative stereotyping of women, especially about their credibility. When domestic violence is not adequately understood, victim-blaming, accusations of lying, and trivializing the abuse are more common. Judges may hold images of the “good” or “typical” victim — terrified and submissive – and lack understanding of those who are angry or with a history of substance abuse. A study of cases brought to appeal showed reversals in the mothers’ favor when domestic violence was considered. Not surprisingly, there is some evidence that female judges show more support for victim protection. Training also seems to matter. In one study, judges with domestic violence education and more knowledge of domestic violence were more likely to grant sole custody to abused mothers. 

A further barrier for battered women is that some laws and psychiatric theories often put them in a “Catch-22.” As a result of the “friendly parent” legal standard and the nonscientific “parent alienation syndrome,” actions to protect themselves and their children often work against them. In many cases, battered women are reasonably reluctant to co-parent out of fear that their ex-partner will harm them or their children. These women may sense that separation increases the risk of homicide, which in reality it does. In addition, physical abuse, harassment, and stalking of women continue at fairly high rates or escalate after separation, affecting as many as 35% of survivors. Up to a fourth of battered women report that their ex-partner threatened to hurt the children or kidnap them. Women may be reluctant to reveal their address or allow unsupervised visits. Yet such reluctance means they are more likely to be seen as “unfriendly” or “uncooperative,” which counts against them in the custody criteria of most states and the Canadian Divorce Act. Claims of “parent alienation syndrome” (PAS) similarly place women in a Catch-22. If mothers report child abuse or even raise concerns about danger to their children, some evaluators and courts immediately label them as “alienators.” In the original formulation of PAS, no investigation of her allegations has to occur and she is labeled as pathological simply for exercising a legal right. The syndrome assumes that programming has occurred if an allegation is made and thus has a circular definition. PAS does not have legal standing, yet the general concept or label may influence decision makers. 

What are the implications of these findings for supervised visitation/exchange programs? First, providers would be wise to check for their own potential biases about visiting mothers who are survivors. Second, comprehensive provider training is essential. Topics need to include methods for detecting abuse and assessing danger, the impact of domestic violence on children, the ways that abusers often manipulate court and social systems, and, in particular, the impact of violence on survivors. Visiting mothers are often depressed and have post-traumatic stress symptoms as a result of being battered and losing their children. Providers need to realize that depression and post-traumatic stress symptoms often manifest as anger or apathy. Without such understanding, providers may be quick to label these mothers as “hostile,” “uncooperative,” or “disinterested.” 

Third, although supervised visitation/exchange programs cannot act as advocates for individual women who lose custody disputes, they can raise concerns about apparent systems failures with their community’s domestic violence coordinating councils. Building a close collaborative tie with your local coordinating body can place visitation/exchange programs in a position to help make changes in local policies and practices. (For more information on advocacy roles for supervised visitation programs, see “Guiding Principles: Safe Havens Supervised Visitation and Safe Exchange Grant Program” at http://www.praxisinternational.org/pages/visitation/materials.asp.) 

In addition, providers may need new skills for protecting mothers and their children. Supervised Visitation Network (SVN) standards require that programs “refer any victim of domestic violence to a resource expert that can assist and help the victim in developing a personal safety plan.” This assumes that program staff have the skills and screening tools to detect domestic violence among their clients. In addition, a referral for safety planning may not go far enough. A referral for legal advocacy, such as help with stalking, threats, and restraining order violations, may be necessary to protect a mother and her children. Recent evidence shows surprisingly high rates of stalking and threats occur between visits and exchanges. Close working relationships with domestic violence programs will help make the most meaningful and effective referrals – through first hand knowledge of these programs and the ability to learn detection and referral skills from them. By failing to take steps to help, supervised visitation centers risk being one of a long line of so-called “helping systems” that fail survivors, adding another blow to their psyches. (For more information on domestic violence practice in supervised visitation see “Beyond Observation: Considerations for Advancing Domestic Violence Practice in Supervised Visitation” at http://endabuse.org/programs/children/). 

Providers may be reluctant to make referrals or give other help for fear of violating a standard of “neutrality.” However, SVN Standards are clear: “Neutral/neutrality means maintaining an unbiased, objective, and balanced environment. . . . Being neutral does not mean providers disregard behaviors such as abuse or violence of any kind.” Centers can create a neutral  “environment” for parents to visit with their children, but they should never be neutral toward violence against either children or adults. Specialized help can also be given to abusers without violating the standard of neutrality. Supervised visitation programs are in a unique position to encourage men to become responsible fathers, which in turn can increase their motivation to participate in abuser intervention and fathering-after-violence programs. (For more information on fathering-after-violence programs, see “Fathering After Violence: Working with Abusive Fathers in Supervised Visitation” at http://endabuse.org/programs/children/

On a broader level, programs can work with other agencies and professional organizations to ensure that judges, mediators, custody evaluators and other professionals have adequate domestic violence training. Systems advocacy can mean working to remove “friendly parent” standards for cases of domestic violence. In this way, programs can help those who have suffered doubly – from the personal injustice of intimate partner abuse and from the social injustice of “helping systems” that fail to help. A likely result will be greater long-term safety for the children and parents who are your clients.

Happy Mothers Day Moms!

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If you are not with your children, know that YOU are in their hearts.  Nobody, no court, no judge or father can change that!

Grab your tissues for this.  An original Mothers Day song by Eddie Kilgallon, for his mom and yours! Download the song at: www.songsoflove.org/MothersDay

Isn’t it Time Someone Called Cut?

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Keira Knightly portrays an abused woman in this video to raise awareness for domestic violence.  Television censors in the UK refuse to let it be shown without the domestic violence scenes taken out.  Guess they can’t handle real life, what domestic violence victims deal with…our judges don’t believe it happens, our Whores of the Court here don’t believe it happens.  Everyone just stick your heads in the ground and play ostrich…and keep believing it doesn’t happen.  Tell that to April Wills.

 

 

From The Telegraph (UK):

Censors are refusing to allow an advertising campaign against domestic violence featuring Keira Knightley to be shown in full on television.

Clearcast, the company which censors adverts on behalf of Ofcom, has reportedly ruled that scenes showing the star of Atonement and Pirates of the Caribbean being thrown to the ground and kicked must be removed before it can be broadcast.

The advert, made by the charity Women’s Aid, has been shown in cinemas and viewed more than a million times on the internet.

Called The Cut, it shows Knightley returning home from shooting a new film to be confronted by her boyfriend, who accuses her of having an affair. He then attacks her and she is last seen being kicked repeatedly while lying on the floor. It is this last scene that has been deemed too shocking for a television audience.

Women’s Aid said it felt the film was justified as it portrayed the reality of domestic violence.

“We were very careful to reflect what we had heard from anecdotal evidence. We have put this forward to Clearcast, with statistics from the Home Office, and other material,” said Lucy Brown, of the charity.

Sandra Horely, the chief executive of Refuge, which gives women and children escaping from domestic violence a place to stay, condemned the decision.

“It seems pathetic. It is really important to raise awareness about domestic violence, and TV gets into people’s homes,” she said.

“Many women who are victims of domestic violence are isolated by their partner, and in these situations TV is very helpful. It is also a great way to reach the public and raise awareness of the issue.”

The advert was due to be shown on television this month.

Chris Hirst, managing director of Grey London Advertising Agency, said: “The reason we are still in conversation with Clearcast about it is because they believe it is too violent.

“Part of the point of the campaign is to raise awareness about domestic violence and spark debate, which the advert has done, even if it doesn’t make it on to TV.”

How to File a Complaint Against an Indiana Judge

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This is information from the Indiana Judicial Qualifications Commission on how to file a complaint against a judge in Indiana:

The Commission does not review legal error or disputes about the merits of a judge’s decision. Filing a complaint is not a substitute for appeal and has no effect on your legal or appellate rights . If you want or intend to appeal from a judge’s order, you must pursue your appellate rights through the judicial system. The appellate process is subject to strict deadlines, and you should immediately obtain legal advice about your appellate remedies. The Commission may not give legal advice or help you decide whether to appeal.

If you file a complaint against a judge, you must provide your name, current address, all telephone contacts, the name of the judge and the court, and the cause number and names and addresses of all attorneys who represented you at any time if your complaint relates to a court case.

You must state in writing a concise but detailed explanation of the judge’s specific conduct you allege to have been unethical. Provide dates, names and contact information for any witnesses, and copies of pertinent documents. You need not research or identify what precise rule the judge is alleged to have violated. The judge will receive a copy of your complaint.

The only other requirement is that you verify your complaint; that is, sign it under oath stating that the allegations are true to the best of your knowledge and belief. Please use the complaint form. The Commission’s address is:

30 South Meridian Street, Suite 500
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204

We will acknowledge receipt of your complaint and will contact you in writing if we need more information. If you supplement your complaint, you must do so in writing. The Commission meets only every other month, and we cannot predict how long your complaint may be pending. Again, you must continue to pursue your legal and/or appellate remedies, as the complaint process does not affect or protect your legal rights.

If the Commission dismisses your complaint after concluding that the judge did not violate the ethics rules, you will be notified only of that fact. If your complaint is dismissed, but the judge received a private caution of some kind, you will be advised that the Commission took appropriate action. If the Commission ultimately votes to file formal disciplinary charges based upon your allegations, the process then becomes public.

Confidentiality

Usually, the only public action taken by the Commission is when it issues a Commission Admonition or files charges asking the Supreme Court to impose judicial discipline. Otherwise, the Commission is required to maintain the confidentiality of all complaints and investigations, and its meetings are not open to the public. Supreme Court rules prohibit the Commission in most instances from informing anyone, including the complainant, of the nature of any Commission deliberations, the progress or details of any investigation, or details behind the basis for the Commission’s final decision.

You are not required to keep confidential your allegations or the fact that you filed a complaint, nor is the judge. However, if you do state or write your allegations to anyone outside the Commission, you lose your protection from a lawsuit, protection you otherwise have under Supreme Court rules for any statements made without malice.

Download Form: Complaint Against Judge

Learn more about the Commission’s Jurisdiction and Grounds for Judicial Discipline.

Father Who Has AIDS and Two Child Sex Convictions Gets Custody of Young Daughter

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An Australian mum tells of losing her young daughter to exhusband in custody battle.

More Help for Moms in the Indianapolis Area

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Knowing how much we struggle to make ends meet anymore, especially after the family courts have had their way with us, getting and finding help is more important than ever for us.  Here are some helpful programs that are available here:

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Angel Food Ministries 

I participate in this program also…there are 30 sites in the Indianapolis area where you can participate.   Angel Food Ministries is a non-profit, non-denominational organization dedicated to providing food relief and contributing to benevolent outreaches in communities throughout the United States.   By buying food from first rate suppliers at substantial volume discounts, Angel Food Ministries is able to provide families with approximately $65 worth of quality nutritious food for $30. Angel Food Ministries does not use out-of-date food or inferior products.

ABOUT THE FOOD
Each month’s menu is different and consists of fresh, frozen and packaged food. Angel Food is purchased from the nation’s top food suppliers. Providing quality, nutritious food at significant discounts on a regular basis is one practical way to give people a “hand up” during difficult times. The cost for a box of Angel Food is $30. There is no purchase limit for boxes of Angel Food. There are no applications or qualifications necessary to purchase. 

ABOUT THE VALUE
Comparison shopping nationwide in various grocery stores has revealed that the average retail value for the same food items would be approximately $65. Generally, one box of Angel Food assists in feeding a family of four for about one week or a single senior citizen for almost a month.

ABOUT SPECIALITY BOXES
Each month, Angel Food Ministries also offers “specialty boxes” of steak, chicken, pork or other foods. This bonus program affords participants additional food choices at a great value. There is no purchase limit for specialty boxes or bonus foods. There are no applications or qualifications necessary to purchase.

Go the the www.angelfoodministries.com website and search for the site closest to you.  You pay for the boxes you want towards the first part of the month, and pick up the order a week or two afterwards.  It is a great program!

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Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic

Provides free legal representation and preventative law education.   Multiple service locations are available.  There is no enrollment fee, but a service fee may apply.  

Location:

Neighborhood Christian Legal CLinic (Main Office)

2301 North Park Ave.

Indianapolis, IN  46205

Call 317-415-5333 for hours and locations. Spanish: 317-415-5315.

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Acorn Housing

Provides free home ownership counseling to low and moderate income homebuyers.  Helps with housing counseling, credit repair help, money management classes, and delinquency counseling.  Cost is $20.00 for your credit report…you may be able to bypass this by pulling your own on annualcreditreport.com where you can get your free credit report once a year (for each of the three credit reporting agencies)…call to check!

Location:

520 E. 12th St.

Indianapolis, IN 46202

Call 317-635-6277 to schedule an appointment.

 

Written by mothersoflostchildren

May 1, 2009 at 3:37 am

California Getting Ready to Outlaw Parental Alienation Syndrome

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Nancy Lee Grahn (Alexis/General Hospital) Testifies About Personal Ordeal

An interesting press release arrived today that I thought I’d share with you.

When I saw Nancy Lee Grahn’s name in the headline, it immediately got my attention.  And as I read on, it became even more interesting.

nancy-leeAs a soap fan, I have – for years – enjoyed Nancy Lee Grahn’s portrayal of the strong, smart, ever-so-efficient attorney Alexis Davis.  But I had no idea that she was involved in a court battle regarding her child.

According to this release, Grahn is testifying Tuesday at the California Assembly Judiciary Committee Hearing on behalf of Bill AB 612. If passed, the bill would outlaw the use of Parental Alienation Syndrome to gain custody of children in divorce situations.

The syndrome describes behavior where one parent turns a child against the other by convincing the child the parent has treated him or her badly, even when they have not. Many call it “junk science” and are trying to get it banned from being used to gain custody in divorce cases.

Below is the press release which describes Grahn’s participation in these hearings and her support for this bill.

T.V. Star Nancy Lee Grahn to Join Dozens of Family Court Victims to Urge Passage of Assemblyman Jim Beall’s AB 612

What: Pre-Hearing Press Conference

Who: Daytime TV Celebrity Nancy Lee Grahn & dozens of family court victims & court reform advocates

When: 8:30AM on Tuesday, April 28 – Press Conference; 9:00AM Hearing in Room 4202

Where: State Capitol- Room 444

Acclaimed television star Nancy Lee Grahn will address reporters tomorrow about her personal family court ordeal before she testifies on behalf of AB 612 at the California Assembly Judiciary Committee Hearing. Grahn will join dozens of parents and children to speak about the ravages of Parental Alienation Syndrome, or PAS, on their lives, and the desperate need for family court reform.

Like thousands of parents in California’s family courts, Grahn was falsely accused of alienating her child against her father, yet she eventually prevailed in her protecting her child. AB 612 would outlaw the use of this unscientific theory that is typically responsible for placing more than 58,000 children per year in the U.S. into dangerous homes with parents the children have identified as their molesters and abusers (Leadership Council on Child Abuse & Interpersonal Violence). Beall’s bill is just one of a handful of measures addressing the need for family court reform in California this year.

PAS is a controversial, unscientific theory that does not meet legal evidentiary standards, yet it is commonly used in family courts everywhere. PAS and related alienation theories are not accepted or endorsed by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, American Psychological Association, American Prosecutors Research Institute, National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse, and nearly all credible researchers on the subject.