Mothers Of Lost Children – Indiana

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Archive for the ‘Corrupt Judges’ Category

Common Misconception: Officers of the Court Do Not Lie

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If most lawyers and other Whores of the Court were puppets made of wood, they’d all have six foot long noses.  The general public who don’t have many dealings with family court officials don’t realize this, hence the main reason for many family court victims losing their main support system…their family.  They think “these are court officials, they don’t lie” and they are sorely mistaken.  The following is from a Washington State publication, but it could be from any part of the country.  If you click the link on the title “GAL Power”, it will take you to the complete article at the Vancouver Voice.

GAL Power

Marcus Griffith

June 22, 2011

Divorced parents with minor children often fight over custody and visitation rights, producing courtroom decisions that are complex and often heartbreaking for at least one parent. This story takes a rare public look into that system for two reasons:

First, it involves the kind of complicated, personal and family situations that make these cases so difficult to adjudicate. Secondly, there is the additional drama of conflict combined with allegations of questionable performances among the justice system officials themselves.

Clark County Court Commissioner Carin Schienberg recently removed two children from their mother’s home, even though no petition for such action was before the court. Schienberg based her temporary decision on an allegedly flawed report prepared by a court-appointed guardian ad litem (GAL).

When the mother’s attorney criticized the GAL report and refused to apologize for her comments, the commissioner held the attorney in contempt and fined her $500.

The commissioner’s ruling is under appeal, with a hearing pending. Meanwhile, the two minor children have been moved to the custody of their father. He has issued multiple threats of legal action against the writer and any publication who would publish a story about this case.

In Washington State, court commissioners are appointed by superior court judges. They are not elected by the public, but they have many of the same responsibilities and authorities as a superior court judge.

A family law guardian ad litem is appointed by the court to represent the best interests of a child, often during divorce or custody proceedings. In addition to family law matters, a GAL can be appointed to assist anyone a court deems legally incapacitated. Clark County commissioners and judges appointed GALs 396 times in 2010, according to Superior Court Administrator Jeffrey Amram.

GAL reports are confidential. However, the author obtained a copy of the GAL report from an undisclosed source after concerns were raised about contents of the report and the commissioner’s ruling.

Case didn’t seek custody

In August 2008, the mother received “primary residential placement” of the two minor children as part of a court-approved parenting plan. After more than two years of continuing conflict between the parents, the father filed an October 2010 contempt motion against the mother for violation of visitation rights.

The commissioner, in early December, held the mother in contempt for certain violations. At the same time, she approved a motion to require that transfer of the children for visitation times take place at the Vancouver police station due to conflict between the parties.

In November, the mother filed a petition to modify the parenting plan, asking for restricted visitation time with the father until he received counseling for anger management. The father, responding in December, said there was insufficient proof for a major modification of that plan.
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Written by mothersoflostchildren

June 22, 2011 at 11:33 pm

Join the Mothers of Lost Children in Silent Vigil at the White House on Mothers Day

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UPDATE: New hours for the Vigil to be held on Mothers Day, May 8th, 2011.  There will be a speakout scheduled to start at 6:00 pm in front of the White House.  This will be followed by circling the White House, going down 17th St. over to Constitution Ave. then up 15th St. until we return to the front of the White House.  This will be what we did last year, but just continues the journey completely around the White House complex.  A candlelight vigil will then begin, being held until 9:30 pm.  Bring your signs, banners, and candles (battery operated if possible).  We will have a few to hand out, and will have some “Mothers of Lost Children” t-shirts also.  If you have any questions, please email “mothersoflostchildren@gmail.com”.   Contact phone number is (317) 455-5827.  This change will hopefully allow this vigil to happen without any problems.  So in summary:

6:00 – 7:00 pm  Speakout for the mothers/guests

7:00 – 7:45 pm   March by the Mothers of Lost Children around the White House (down 17th St., over on Constitution Ave., and up 15th St. to return to front of White House)

7:45 – 9:30 pm   Candlelight vigil for the children lost to abusers

A protest is still being worked out for the front of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services for Monday, May 9th.  Stay tuned for more information coming on that.  Thank you and we hope to see you there!

Protest held on February 14th, 2011, at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, before they threatened to have us arrested.

We are going to be at the White House again on Mothers Day, to protest the use of taxpayer funds to support fatherhood initiative programs, which have been effective in helping abusive fathers in taking custody of children away from their victims.   Extra accommodations have been secured at the hostel we usually stay at for these events, which have been going on about three times a year, so if you can’t find a place to stay, email mothersoflostchildren@gmail.com about this.  This is a clean, safe place to stay and costs only $38.00 a night (breakfast included!).

Some of the organizations taking part and supporting the Silent Vigil include Mothers of Lost Children Chapters in California, Indiana and Delaware, the California Protective Parents Association, the Center for Judicial Excellence, the National Organization for Women, and the Battered Mothers Custody Conference. Many other organizations are also included.  If you cannot attend the event in Washington, D.C. on Mothers Day, something will be planned in Indiana that you can attend.  Other states will be holding similar events, and Ms. Hodge will be coordinating a lot of these as she has publicity contacts nationwide.

So stay tuned for more information…hope you can attend this year’s event!  Last year was very successful in many ways.  There were hundreds of mothers in vigil.  It needs to continue until the practice of giving abusers custody of children stops.

Mothers of Lost Children Silent Vigil from Mothers Day, 2010

Don’t Be Fooled By The “Shared Parenting” Scam

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Seen on another site…it applies here.  Dr. Flood is in Australia, where they are already experiencing their own shared parenting disaster in courts.  His letter could very well apply here, because it is happening:

The misguided agendas of fathers’ rights groups

You are being bombarded at present with mass e-mails from fathers’ rights advocates urging you to adopt a ‘rebuttable presumption of equal parenting time’. Taking advantage of the same ‘e-mail megaphone’ system they have set up, I am writing to urge you to reject this proposal.

The proposed presumption of joint residence will, ostensibly, enhance shared parenting of children after divorce and separation, a goal with which few could argue. However, in practice it is likely that the changes will do little to encourage shared parenting. There are at least five problems with the presumption.

First, the proposed rebuttable presumption of joint custody is unnecessary: there are no formal legal obstacles to parents sharing the care of children after separation and divorce. Family law already endorses the principle of shared parenting, stressing that children have the right to know and be cared for by both their parents and that parents are jointly responsible for their children. Separating parents can make arrangements for shared residence, and small numbers do.

Second, the parents to whom this legal change would apply are those least able to set up shared parenting. The small minority of separating parents who reach the courtroom are often experiencing the most intractable and bitter conflicts, face issues of violence and abuse, and are the least likely to be in a position to share residence and parenting of their children.

Third, one size does not fit all. The best interests of the child, a key principle in family law, would be compromised by any presumption of a specific type of custody arrangement. The proposed law would undermine the ability and flexibility families need in order to develop parenting arrangements which best fit their children.

Fourth, the introduction of a presumption of joint custody is likely to increase the use of litigation to rebut the presumption, stretching the resources of the Courts and government.

Finally, a legal presumption of joint custody is likely to expose women, children and men to higher levels of violence. This prospect is particularly troubling given that there are already cases where the practice of family law privileges parental contact with children over children?s safety.

Promoting fathers? positive involvement with children is a laudable goal. But it will not be achieved by ill-considered changes in family law.

I have provided further detail on each of the above five points in the document contained here: http://www.xyonline.net/downloads/Joint_custody_DP59.pdf. And see the documents on the following website for my further discussion on how to promote fathers’ positive involvement in their children’s lives: http://www.xyonline.net/articles.shtml#father. Finally, see the following for critiques of the false claims made by fathers’ rights groups e.g. about women’s use of false allegations of domestic violence or child abuse.

Sincerely,

Dr Michael Flood
Postdoctoral Fellow
Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society (ARCSHS)
La Trobe University
E-mail: michael.flood@latrobe.edu.au
Ph. (02) 6125 9703 (BH)
PO Box 4026, Ainslie ACT, 2602 AUSTRALIA

Insanity? Nope, Family Court in Indiana

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yaaaImagine that your home was broken into, vandalized and burglarized one night. You were roughed up and tied up while he ransacked your home. Fortunately, he left you shaken and hurt, but not seriously injured such as to require hospitalization. You were successfully able to identify him and his vehicle as he sped away.

Upon your call to the police, the offender is apprehended with the goods in his possession and brought to court to stand trial for his crimes against you.

You arrive in court and the first thing the judge asks you is if you are willing to go to mediation with the burglar. When you refuse, the judge labels you ‘uncooperative’ and ‘hostile’ to the burglar’s continued relationship with you. Even though the burglar was caught red-handed with your goods, and you were an eye witness to the crime, the judge now decides that he can’t possibly decide the case without first appointing a social worker termed a “burglary evaluator” to assess yours and the burglar’s relationship.

When the social worker/evaluator can not determine what is best for your relationship or your stolen goods, they ask the judge to have both you and the burglar psychologically evaluated, because you seem “anxious”, “angry” and “uncooperative” with the burglar. The court-appointed psychologist, who has no experience in being the victim of violent crime and has not studied the effects of such trauma, also determines that you are uncooperative, hostile, anxious, and you have a negative opinion of the burglar that can’t be healthy. After all, the burglar had nothing but good things to say about you, your home and your belongings during his evaluation.

The psychologist recommends that you be restricted from access to your belongings until you can accept the burglar’s rightful relationship to continued access to your home and personal effects. He further recommends you attend weekly conjoint therapy with the burglar to work on being more cooperative with him in the future.

All at your expense of course.

The judge decides to wait a year or so to see how you work through your relationship with the burglar before he can decide upon the burglary conviction. He chastises you that you had better really work at the relationship or he may just grant the burglar’s request to maintain sole ownership of your property. None of these “experts” can be sued civilly for their negligence and incompetence because they have judicial or quasi-judicial immunity.

Insanity? Nope. Family court in Indiana.

Domestic violence victims walk into family court to ask a judge to protect their children from a known abuser. Instead, they face the above-described nightmare that can span years and put them into financial ruin, mental and emotional exhaustion, not to mention directly back into the path of the abuser. Judges pressure them to mediate, assign a custody evaluator who pressures them to accept 50/50 joint physical and legal custody with theirs and their children’s abuser.

They and their children are put through psychological evaluations by persons with little to no training in domestic violence, and some judges force co-parenting therapy and reunification therapy upon mother and child with their perpetrators. If they can not fit into the mold of cooperative “co-parenting” and the children continue to be reluctant to visit with the man that abused them, they face losing custody to him.

We have spent millions of dollars printing brochures and making public service announcements to victims of domestic violence encouraging them to leave violent relationships and telling them of the harmful effects on their children.

But when they do get the courage to leave, the same system tells them they are wrong to try to protect their children once they have divorced their abuser, and that they should now fully and freely support unsupervised visitation with the same dangerous person. Contrary to popular belief, children of batterers can be at just as much risk psychologically, sexually, and even physically after the couple splits up as they were when the family was still together. In fact, many children experience the most damaging victimization from the abuser at this point.

Most people assume that a fit mother never loses custody. If only that were true. The American Judges Association reports that “Studies show that batterers have been able to convince authorities that the victim is unfit or undeserving of sole custody in approximately 70% of challenged cases.” Unfortunately, the State of Indiana’s current laws also says that none of these people can be held accountable, either.

And so we go on, handing down family violence from one generation to the next…

[a special thanks to Indiana Mothers for Custodial Justice, Alaska Mothers For Custodial Justice and Kansas Mothers for Custodial Justice]

One Mother’s Voice

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My name is Shirley Riggs, I’m 39 years old and the mother of 4 beautiful children. I’m writing this inside the Thurston County jail, Olympia, WA, waiting for extradition to Kansas City, Missouri to face charges of custodial interference. My bond stands at $500,000 cash only. This secures that I as a mother will sit in jail because I chose to protect my children from further sexual abuse and because of a broken system. My heart aches for my children in a way few will ever realize….

 
…. My children and I have suffered great injustices in our lives in the past 4 years. We have been denied our right to due process and protection. Laws have been swept under the rug, resulting in my children being placed with their father and grandfather, who both have substantiated sexual abuse findings involving my oldest daughter. My children have been illegally ripped from the home, family, society, and way of life they love, the place they felt safest and the community they held so dear.

 

Shirley has lost all her parental rights now (thank you family court) and no longer has any access to them.  My thoughts are with her…

Written by mothersoflostchildren

July 25, 2009 at 7:26 pm

Mothers For Justice on So-called “Parental Alienation Syndrome”

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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.