Mothers Of Lost Children – Indiana

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Archive for the ‘Help for Indianapolis Moms’ Category

Why Won’t the White House or the U.S. Department of Justice DO SOMETHING?

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As we prepare for ANOTHER vigil in Washington D.C., again we are seemingly getting no acknowledgement about the severe plight that mothers and children are faced with.  Why don’t these folks come out and talk to the mothers who are going though this?  Why are mothers left wondering what is going to be done? 

Do they even know what is going on…really know what’s going on? 

Why don’t they do something? 

I wondered this as a child victim of family court, placed with my mother’s abuser (my father).  I wonder about this as an abused mother, who hasn’t seen her children in several years now.  Why are they handing all this help to fathers (through Fatherhood Initiative grants from HHS), and not helping mothers in the same boat?  Not to mention looking the other way on the actual criminal aspect of it.  Why not come out of that big white house on Sunday evening and tell us why.

Need Legal Help? Ask a Lawyer for Free Coming Up Soon

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Here is another great opportunity to get some legal questions answered. For further questions, please visit the Indianapolis Bar Association’s website. (The information shows the year as 2010, so I have updated it with the new information below).

Do you need free legal help? You can meet with an attorney to ask basic legal questions at the Indianapolis Bar Association’s Ask A Lawyer event. Free legal advice will be provided by qualified, licensed attorneys as a service to our community. This one-day community event is sponsored by the Indianapolis Bar Association and the Indianapolis Bar Foundation, in cooperation with the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library and Indianapolis Public Schools.

Upcoming Ask a Lawyer Dates

Tuesday, April 12, 2011, 2 p.m. – 6 p.m.

Members of the Indianapolis Bar Association will be available for FREE one-on-one consultations at the following locations:

Brightwood Library, 2435 N. Sherman Dr.

Central Library, 40 E. St. Clair St.

College Library, 4180 N. College Ave.

East 38th Street Library, 5420 E. 38th St.

East Washington Library, 2822 E. Washington St.

Haughville Library, 2121 W. Michigan St.

Nora Library, 8625 Guilford Ave.

Pike Library, 6525 Zionsville Rd.

Shelby Library, 2502 Shelby St.

Southport Library, 2630 E. Stop 11 Road

If you are unable to visit these locations, please call the Indianapolis Bar Association at (317) 269-2000 between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., on April 12 to talk to an attorney.

Please Join Us For Another Rally in Washington D.C., February 13th and 14th

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Less than two weeks to go!  Remember, there is a meeting the evening of the 13th at the hostel where many are staying.  For information on the hostel…click here.

Make Plans to Attend the Battered Mothers Custody Conference VIII in New York This January

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In it’s eighth year, this next conference will focus on getting battered mothers connected with organizations. It is a powerful event and provides an excellent opportunity to network with other abused mothers dealing with child custody issues and advocates. Here is a video from one of the conferences several years ago, produced by Garland Waller of Boston University:

 


Battered Women, Abused Children, and Child Custody:

“A National Crisis”

The Eighth Annual Battered Mothers Custody Conference

BMCC VIII: “The Unity Conference”

January 7th, 8th, & 9th, 2011

(Friday evening, 6 p.m. – Sunday afternoon)

Holiday Inn Turf

205 Wolf Road, Albany, NY

(Five minutes away from Albany International Airport)

Reserve early to get the $99 conference rate!

Call: 1-800-HOLIDAY or 518-458-7250

Ask for the Battered Mothers Custody Conference block.

A major focus this year will be to connect battered mothers with organizations working locally, nationally, and internationally to combat unjust family court practices that continue to do untold harm to battered mothers and their children.

For updated details and registration, please visit www.batteredmotherscustodyconference.org.

MOTHERS ALERT: Indianapolis Father’s Rights Lawyers Work to Discredit You

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Watch out for these folks in Indianapolis: Schembs Sweeney. If they are on your ex’s side, they may be up to some shenanigans, or may have a “special relationship” with your judge. Here is a screen shot of their website:

Abusers typically scream about “false allegations.”   However, from the American Bar Association’s 10 Myths About Custody and Domestic Violence and How to Counter Them, it is noted:


The courts of Marion County typically disregard claims of domestic violence, and even when accepted, don’t care and hand the children to the abuser anyway (this ALSO being noted on the ABA report).  Download the ABA document and MAKE YOUR LAWYER READ IT.  Most lawyers in Indianapolis won’t care, but this is the lives of your children on the line. Do everything you can to document your case, including hospital reports, tape recordings, pictures, witnesses, anything you can.  If it wasn’t for Mel Gibson’s girlfriend Oksana having a tape recorder running, she wouldn’t have caught the vicious rant which included “I want my child, and no one will believe you” as Gibson raged about the attacks he made on her.

Take care of yourself and your children.  The lawyers and judges in Indianapolis won’t.

What an Amazing Vigil at the White House on Mother’s Day

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Mothers of children being taken and given to abusers and rapists are tired of not being heard.  We won’t shut up, we won’t go away!  Here’s a video someone made that has some pictures from the vigil.  It’s awesome!

For the love of our children…


Vodpod videos no longer available.

April 25th is Abusers Awareness Day: Learn the Truth About Parental Alienation Syndrome

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In 1985, PAS was first described by Richard Gardner, a psychiatrist who wrote that adults having sex with children is not a bad thing.[1]

Gardner described PAS as a “syndrome” whereby vengeful mothers employed child abuse allegations as a powerful weapon to punish ex-husbands and ensure custody to themselves.[2] He further theorized that such protective parents enlisted the children in their “campaign of denigration” and “vilification” of the abuser, that they often “brainwashed” or “programmed” the children into believing untrue claims of abuse by the father, and that the children then fabricated and contributed their own stories.[3]

To distance themselves from the discredited theory and its embarrassing originator, proponents of Parental Alienation Awareness Day sometimes claim that Parental Alienation Syndrome and parental alienation are different.  In reality, they are often used synonymously and the consequences can be dire.  Children can end up in the custody of their abusers.

Since 1985, abusers have come to convince family courts to ignore children’s allegations of abuse by invoking parental alienation and Parental Alienation Syndrome.  They wrongly claim that mothers are to blame because they are brainwashing their children.

PAS WIDELY DISCREDITED

1996 – The Report of the American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family discredited the theory. It stated:

Although there are no data to support the phenomenon called parental alienation syndrome, in which protective parents are blamed for interfering with their children’s attachment to their abusers, the term is still used by some evaluators and courts to discount children’s fears in hostile and psychologically abusive situations.[4] Family courts often do not consider the history of violence between the parents in making custody and visitation decisions. . . . Psychological evaluators not trained in domestic violence may contribute to this process by ignoring or minimizing the violence and by giving inappropriate pathological labels to women’s responses to chronic victimization. Terms such as “parental alienation” may be used to blame the women for the children’s reasonable fear of or anger toward their violent abuser.[5]

2003 – The National District Attorneys Association’s Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse discredited the theory. It stated:

Although PAS may be hailed as a “syndrome” . . . in fact it is the product of anecdotal evidence gathered from Dr. Gardner’s own practice. […] PAS is based primarily upon two notions, neither of which has a foundation in empirical research. […] PAS is an untested theory that, unchallenged, can have far-reaching consequences for children seeking protection and legal vindication in courts of law.”[6]

2006 – The American Bar Association’s Children’s Legal Rights Journal discredited the theory. It stated:

PAS’s twenty-year run in American courts is an embarrassing chapter in the history of evidentiary law. It reflects the wholesale failure of legal professionals entrusted with evidentiary gate-keeping intended to guard legal processes from the taint of pseudo-science…. As a matter of science, law, and policy PAS should remain inadmissible in American courts.[7]


2006 – The
National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges also discredited the theory. It stated:

The discredited “diagnosis” of “PAS” (or allegation of “parental alienation”), quite apart from its scientific invalidity, inappropriately asks the court to assume that the children’s behaviors and attitudes toward the parent who claims to be “alienated” have no grounding in reality. It also diverts attention away from the behaviors of the abusive parent, who may have directly influenced the children’s responses by acting in violent, disrespectful, intimidating, humiliating and/or discrediting ways toward the children themselves, or the children’s other parent.[8]

CONSEQUENCES

One of the most troubling consequences of Gardner’s theory is that, “PAS shifts attention away from the perhaps dangerous behaviour of the parent seeking custody to that of the custodial parent. This person, who may be attempting to protect the child, is instead presumed to be lying and poisoning the child.”[9]

As a result, some children placed in the custody of their abusers have committed suicide; others have run away, and countless others have endured the abuse and are permanently traumatized. In recent years, children placed in custody of their abusers have been coming forward to tell their stories and to warn of the danger surrounding the fictitious syndrome.[10]


[1] www.stopfamilyviolence.org/373

[2] Gardner, 1992a; 1992b

[3] (Gardner, 1992b, p. 162, 193; 2002, pp. 94-95). – Meier, J. (2009, January). Parental Alienation Syndrome and Parental Alienation: Research Reviews. Harrisburg, PA: VAWnet, a project of the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence/Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Retrieved 3/10/2009, from: http://www.vawnet.org

[4] Pg 40

[5] Pg 100

[6] http://www.ndaa.org/publications/newsletters/update_volume_16_number_6_2003.html

[7] http://www.stopfamilyviolence.org/media/Hoult_PAS_admissibility.pdf

[8] http://www.stopfamilyviolence.org/media/NCFCJ%20guidebook%20final_2006.pdf

[9] Bruch, Carol S., Parental Alienation Syndrome and Parental Alienation: getting It Wrong in Child Custody Case in Child and Family Law Quarterly, Vol 14, No 4, 2002: 384.

[10] http://www.courageouskids.net

Silent Vigil to be Held at The White House on Mother’s Day

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MOTHERS DAY AT THE WHITE HOUSE

In the somber spirit of the U.S. suffragettes, the Argentine Mothers of the Disappeared, the Turkish Saturday Mothers, the German Rose Street Women, and most recently, the Liberian women who stopped a civil war, we are gathering at the White House to ask our President to meet with our delegates and to help stop the systematic removal and oppression of our children by family court.

Peaceful silent vigil at the White House in Washington DC

Sunday May 9, 2010 from 11:00 am until at least 2:00 pm.

Exact location TBD. We are requesting a permit for Penn Ave and 14th.

We will bring white ‘Mothers of Lost Children’ tshirts, white scarves and handouts. Be sure to bring water bottles, powerbars, suntan lotion, dark glasses, umbrella. Reserve hotels soon (unless you travel by night on a bus and don’t stay in DC).

A few suggestions for posterboard signs to bring with you to hold:

  • Children are taken from safe mothers and forced to live with abusers. Why?
  • I gave birth to a beloved daughter: Her batterer has custody.
  • I gave birth to a cherished son: His identified molester has custody.
  • I gave birth to three precious children: Our violator has custody.
  • I fear judicial retaliation: What country IS this? (if a scarf is over your face)
  • Mr. President, please stop the children’s suffering.

We are compiling one page stories into a booklet. If you would like to contribute factual information and quotes, especially words from your children, send them to us (mothersoflostchildren@gmail.com). You don’t need to give any identifying information. Also, contact us to connect with others in your region who plan to come. Come early or stay later in the week to visit your Congressmembers, if you wish. Just find the name and make an appointment with him/her, or his/her staffer!

http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml ;

Family Court Crisis

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Two very important videos on the crisis happening in the family courts, from The Center for Judicial Excellence.   This perfectly illustrates what is happening in the family courts in Indiana, and the problem with the judges, the court-appointed psychologists, co-parenting counselors, Guardians ad Litem, minor’s counsel, custody evaluators, and any other associated court whores who will bleed a family dry and suck the lifeblood out of it’s victims.  Well, they keep themselves pretty well employed in Indianapolis.

Attention Indiana Legislature: Read About The Shared Parenting Disaster in Australia Before You Do it to Us

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This is from the Daily Telegraph in Australia, where they are already experiencing problems with forced shared parenting.  The “shared parenting” advocates in Indiana, at least some of them, believe that even an abusive parent deserves shared parenting.  This is horrifying to us that see our children abused and the abusers are applauded by the family courts of Indiana and often rewarded with full custody of the children.  This is often the starting point – shared parenting – but the goal is to get out of child support and gain full custody.

Children ‘at risk’ in shared parenting

THE practice of splitting child custody equally between divorced parents is being questioned after a major study found one in five parents in the arrangement believed it was not working.

An estimated 90,000 Australian children are in shared-care arrangements under a policy introduced by the Howard government with the support of fathers’ rights groups.

But the largest study of the family law system, released yesterday, found a presumption of a 50-50 split was putting some children into violent homes.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland said yesterday a “misunderstanding” that parents were guaranteed equal time under the law was to blame. “Bush lawyers or pub lawyers are providing advice to people going through the system that is wrong,” he said.

“We are now in a situation where people have resolved cases where the best interest of children may have not been regarded.”

Family laws introduced in 2006 included a presumption of equal parental responsibility, widely interpreted as an even-time split.

But researchers said yesterday parents had agreed to shared care even when they did not have to. Other parents were disillusioned because they were not granted a perfectly equal arrangement.

And violence was not being addressed in court because of the threat of paying full court costs if the allegations were not proven.

Mens Rights Agency director Sue Price said any shift away from equal time was a “disastrous” return to the old-fashioned notion that fathers didn’t count.

“It is not good for children not to have both mum and dad in their life,” Ms Price said.

The Australian Institute of Family Studies report, which took three years and surveyed 28,000 people, found about one in 20 children in shared care had parents who reported violence as a risk.

“There are significant concerns around the minority of families where there are safety concerns,” institute director Professor Alan Hayes said. Where safety concerns were reported by parents, children suffered but they suffered the most when they were in shared care agreements, he said.

But researchers found “overwhelming” community support for the concept of shared parenting.

Ms Price said violence by women was ignored in the three reports released yesterday.

Leaving Domestic Abuse Can Be Hazardous for Mothers in Indiana

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This is on indy.com, but you can’t leave comments on this unfortunately.  I definitely have a few things to say about it.

Women in Indiana, especially in Marion County, need to fear leaving.  This is because if they try and stop the abuse or try and leave it, their abuser has a very good chance of getting custody of their children here.  The family law courts in Marion County and the rest of the state look upon domestic violence as a joke, and often will punish a mother who has valid claims of abuse.  They will even acknowledge the abuse, and still punish her by taking the children.

Several other states have recognized this problem in their own backyards and have been enacting protective parents legislation, where a parent who reports abuse cannot be punished for it by having custody taken from them.  The American Bar Association and the American Psychological Association have recognized that abusive fathers seek sole custody twice as often, and 70% of the time they receive it.  Marion County is most likely at the 100% level, as I can’t remember how long it has been since I’ve seen a mother get custody.  We do see a lot of noncustodial moms in our organization, and they all have the horrifying coincidence of abuse as a background.

So sure, get away from the abuse.  But be aware, it will not end if you have children with your abuser.  If he wants to continue to hurt you, the courts of Marion County will be happy to help him.  He will hunt you down and pursue every trick in court to take the children, and the judges will happily give them to him.

Leaving isn’t so easy

indystar

January 25, 2010 by the indystar staff

Why don’t they just leave?

It is the question that puzzles many of us when we hear about the tragic conclusion of a violent domestic relationship. Why doesn’t the victim simply look in the mirror, decide it is time for a change and head out the door?

Perhaps, though, it is we who need to look in the mirror. Is our community doing enough to make sure that door is not barred shut?

Consider the local mother who had escaped an abusive relationship with her child and job intact. But her daughter had a condition that required significant medical care, and the mother, like so many other Hoosiers, had no health insurance to cover it. She weighed her options and decided to return to her abusive husband, who at least had insurance to cover her child’s care.

Fortunately, as the story is told by Julie Marsh, chief executive officer of the Domestic Violence Network of Greater Indianapolis, this woman found help from some of the many angels in Central Indiana who respond to the alarm bells of domestic violence. This mother was spared her horrible choice, but there are many others who do not see an option.

“Victims often don’t leave because they have no job, no money, no place to live,” Marsh says. “Health insurance, food on the table, knowing what to expect financially — all of these are reasons why victims too often stay with the perpetrator.”

In Central Indiana, abuse survivors struggle in particular with child care and transportation to work, keys to self-sufficiency away from the dangerous relationship. Voting against taxes seems like such a no-brainer until we consider that we are voting against the survival of those who need a better bus system to get to a job and against the healthy development of kids who need stable care when their parents must work.

Predictably, the economic downturn has made it worse on those in the most precarious situations. Protective order requests in Marion County increased 20 percent last year, reflecting a national trend as financial pressures ratchet up the tension in dysfunctional relationships and women despair of finding viable exit strategies. Stays at domestic violence shelters have lengthened, as survivors have more trouble finding a job and affording permanent housing.

There are positive developments. Julian Center and Coburn Place are among the programs that are increasing the stock of transitional and permanent housing to supplement emergency shelter space. The City-County Council last year created a domestic violence fatality review team, so we can learn how to prevent tragedies.

And, reflecting one of the top goals of the community’s Peace in Our Homes Plan, youth education about domestic violence is expanding. Washington Township middle-school students are learning about healthy relationships through the Safe Dates curriculum, a program Marsh and other advocates hope will become widely available.

“There is still so much to do,” Marsh says. “When you take this down to the nth degree, saving lives is what this is all about.”

Not Just Indiana, but a National Child Custody Crisis: Why Are Moms Being Punished in Courts?

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It isn’t just happening here in Indiana, it is happening everywhere.

Custody Crisis: Why Moms Are Punished in Court

Tuesday, January 19, 2010
filed under: divorce logic

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

Linda Marie and Children

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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