Family Court – Nuke And Pave
The Family Court system in America is a disaster area. My personal experience has been on the Family Court battlefield in the State of Maryland, but I know Maryland is not alone in its level of chaos. It is certainly not alone in the number of children who are abused and die as a result of decisions made in these courts. While I understand that not every case ends as poorly as mine did (with the unnecessary and brutal murder of a child), the courts as they stand are breeding grounds for sociopathic people to terrorize both their children and their former partners. Since the murder of my son, many desperate parents have sent me letters asking me for advice. I have also gotten letters from fellow Children’s Rights advocates who seek my input on how to best change the system. In my best attempt to remain as positive as possible, given the dire realities that we face, my best advice for the change that needs to happen on a systemic level is as follows:
NUKE AND PAVE
(Note: I don’t mean literally “nuke”. I am not a violent person, and would never suggest blowing something up. By “nuke”, I mean “get rid of the failures and start with a new foundation”.)
This might appear pessimistic, however, it is my strong opinion that an institution that fails so many children to the degree of sanctioning murder – needs to be completely overhauled. A friend of mine, and follow advocate for Children, recently sent me the following link:
MD Commission on Child Custody Decision Making
To spare those of you with only a mild interest (or not a ton of time to read legislative crap) the time it takes to go through this lengthy document, I will summarize: The State of Maryland is creating a “Commission on Child Custody Decision Making.” This sounds great right? On the surface it sounds like progress; however, it could also serve as a temporary bandage on a system that needs open-heart surgery.
The commission has 14 areas it is going to be reviewing. Five public forums will be held (The county where my son’s murder was sanctioned has been left off of this list) so that the commission can take under advisement public opinion on these issues. Below are the issues the commission is set to address where I will focus my attention:
1) To ensure custody orders are more uniform, fair, and equitable.
My comments: This statement screams “parental rights”. It shouldn’t be about what is equal for the parents. It should be about what is the best environment for the child. If one or both of the parents is unstable, and shows a history of abuse and poor decision making, why should that parent be entitled to equal access to the child?
2) Study and consider the adverse effects of child custody litigation and ways the court system can minimize those effects.
My comments: It should be common knowledge in the legal community that the cases that make it to court most certainly involve at least one parent who suffers from a personality disorder. If the court wanted to minimize the effects that litigation has on the child, it should focus on how the parents got to court in the first place. Just trying to get the parents out of court is not going to save the child from the negative impact of dealing with a sociopathic parent.
3) Study how to promote and ensure that children have ongoing relationships with each parent.
My comments: This is similar to point number one. In a perfect world where sociopathic people didn’t have children, both point number one and this point would be a non-issue. Instead of “ongoing relationships”, how about focusing on “healthy and safe relationships”? Many children have ongoing relationships with abusive parents. Many of these children either require extensive therapy to try and reverse the damage or become abusers themselves.
4) Study how to maximize the involvement of both parents in each child’s life.
My comments: It continues to baffle me how the government often believes that it’s in the child’s best interest to try and get a deadbeat parent involved in his/her child’s life. I have seen so many odd cases where the court will try and “encourage” a parent to spend more time with their child, even if it should be clear that the person’s involvement is not in the child’s best interest. It is better to have one good parent than one good one and one abusive one. News flash: Good parents don’t need to be encouraged to be involved with their child.
5) Study whether or not there is any gender discrimination in custody decisions in Maryland and, if so, how to address such discrimination.
My comments: While many times it appears as though currently there is a war on motherhood, in this back bending attempt to promote Father’s Rights, gender discrimination should be irrelevant if we are focusing on Children’s Rights. Shouldn’t it?
6) Make recommendations regarding the most effective manner in which to facilitate cooperative decision- making by parents involved in child custody proceedings as it relates to their children.
My comments: Going back to an earlier point, most cases that end up in court include at least one sociopath. The sooner the courts realize that it is impossible to negotiate or “facilitate cooperative decision-making” with a terrorist, the sooner they will realize this point is ludicrous. During my custody case, both Luc and I were ordered to go to a two- day co-parenting class (6 hours total). I attended this course at the expense of leaving my boob diva of a breast fed child (who was not yet used to taking the bottle and cried with Grandma for six hours straight); however, Luc chose not to attend at all. Those are six hours I will never get back with my son.
7) Study how to ensure that child custody determinations involving parents with mental health issues are handled in a fair and even manner based on actual evidence and not presumed limitations.
My comment: Now this one is an interesting point and scratches the surface of a major problem. The issue with this point, however, is that it assumes that mental health assessments are done appropriately. The judge in my case suspected that Luc had a serious mental health issue based on a preponderance of evidence; however, given that the judge was not a mental health professional, he ordered Luc to get a forensic psychological assessment. Luc found a school psychologist, who specialized in child autism and was friends and co-workers with his older son’s therapist, and paid for what appeared to be a one-sided and negligent custody evaluation from a woman with no experience in adult forensic testing. This test was the evidence the judge needed to protect my son. Even after it became clear that Luc was disordered (when he drowned his own child for life insurance money), this therapist continued to practice and likely still appears in court potentially ruining the lives of other children and families.
After going through all 14 (yes, I excluded some of the ones that focused on cultural sensitivity issues and other periphery issues that I don’t believe are at the root of the problem), I didn’t see one point that talked about a review of the cases that went terribly wrong. Wouldn’t the commission benefit from local case studies that are right at their fingertips and a part of public record? In addition to my own horrific case, they could review Amy Castillo’s case. After begging a judge to pay attention to the deterioration of her husband’s mental health, Amy’s protection order was denied. Her husband then went on to do exactly what he told Amy he would do – he drowned all three children to death in the bathtub of a Baltimore hotel room.
Children have no rights in America. Looking at the Family Court System, it often reminds me of slave times. Laws were made that directly impacted the slaves, yet they had no voice in the process. Slaves were treated like property, killed, and “owner’s rights” always came first. Children are treated much in the same way. Our laws are designed so that parents are given “the right” to do what they wish to their children. It is only after the child is murdered when that parent faces any sort of loss in their rights, but by then it is too late for the child.
When I am asked what I think about this commission or the state of Family Law in general, I always think about Prince. Prince never had a chance in this system because his father intended on killing him. His father wanted access, would cry on cue on the stand when talking about how much he missed his son, and his father effectively gamed our broken system. Prince should have had a right to live. He should have had a right to be happy, healthy, and safe. Prince didn’t have those rights, but the court succeeded in making sure that Luc’s rights were never in jeopardy.
Nuke and pave Maryland. If you want to fix it, start over and make Children’s Rights your foundation.
CQ, I don’t know much about Maryland’s system because I don’t live there – all I know is your case is horrifying and heartbreaking. I agree that “nuking & paving”, using children’s rights as the foundation for a new system, is what should happen. As you point out, though, our children do not have rights in this country – for the most part. I’m curious though … does Maryland have a Child Advocate system in place – where an objective person who’s been trained to speak up for a child’s rights represents kids in these cases? We had that in Texas and while I don’t know how much it helped, I would think it should help in particularly egregious cases like yours.
No matter what or where, the family court system MUST be changed so that children’s best interests are always the #1 consideration in custody/access/child support cases. I’m sick to death of people using their children to hurt their former spouse … or worse (like killing them for insurance money). And then there are abuse cases where children are removed from abusive homes, put in foster care and moved around while “the system” works to rehabilitate abusive parents to reunite families. Seems like that rarely works, but then again we probably don’t hear about the successful cases in the news (if there ARE any).
Peg, to my knowledge there is no child advocate. The parents can request a Guardian at litem, however, the same woman who fought to get my ex access also serves as a GAL on MD cases so you can imagine how child friendly these people are. Not saying they are all bad, but I would worry about Prudence Upton ever standing up for the rights of a child after how she acted in my son’s case.
The judicial system of the United States is broken across the board. It caters to criminals and re-victimizes victims.
A prosecutor can strike a plea deal with a criminal without any input from the victim. Once this is done there is no option for the victim to appeal.
The criminal who is convicted of a crime can then go through many stages of appeal, all the way to the state Supreme Court. But it doesn’t end there. They can then file for what is called Post Conviction Relief, and it’s all paid for by the taxpayers. If the Supreme Court says the criminal is guilty that should be the end of their appeals, but it’s not.
If the victim isn’t happy with a prosecutor who keeps giving break after break to the criminal, the victim can’t call the state’s Attorney General’s office to take over the case, they have to ask the prosecutor to contact the Attorney General to take it over.
Also, the attorney of the criminal can lie for his client at trial and commit other unethical behaviors in an attempt to get his client a not guilty verdict, and the victim is once again powerless. Why? The Attorney Disciplinary Board is made up of…ATTORNEYS. Doesn’t do much good to file a complaint against an attorney to a bunch of attorneys.
Many judges are former criminal attorneys. Does this make sense? It is no wonder to me that the judicial system is seriously broken and in need of an overhaul.
gov cuomo signed a bill and law that they cant appeal esp repeat offenders. so why don’t they follow there the legal system how come i know this ..some judges are good they dont look at all the b/s they look at patterns and someones legal history but others are codependent enablers pathetic. ive seen judges wink at the defendants attorney of course opposite sex b/c there friends or were lovers makes me sick
So true!! Family Court is the one place lawyers can (and do lie) I know first hand. I had the proof, and (documents and testimony) she told the grievance commission one thing, the Judge another. They do not take complaints seriously. When an attorney gets paid MORE than either person who was married gets from their marital assets there is something wrong. I was victimized by the Court (through an unethical attorney) She harassed me and sent threatening emails and then subpoenaed my personal email account trying to obtain information to sue me for damaging her reputation. I did nothing wrong, nor have I ever mentioned her name. I believe I am allowed to have an opinion? She is an advocate of father’s rights and custody in Maryland. I wish I could do something to help others going through family courts and those who have experiences verbal and emotional abusive marriages and relationships. What is so hard is that when you finally are able to escape the abusive behavior, the lawyers and courts take over an victimize you all over again. There must be a better way.
I tried to file a grievance against the court after my son’s murder merely to make sure they looked into their failures. It wasn’t taken seriously because they would rather see my case as an oddity rather than what happens on a daily basis.
what really needs to be changed is family rights people ignore family abuse domestic violence if someone ever assaulted threatened another individual a stranger it would be a crime these are people who are far less at risk of injury ,escalated abuse or retaliation b/c there not relatives or spouse not living in the same house etc. family is more at risk and its ignored the police are the worst they have no ability to judge when the man is lieing and the woman hysterical with fear, assaulting a cop is taken more serious than assaulting your wife mother sibling or child at least a cop has a gun and other officers as witnesses and are trained how dare they be more valuable than the victim, most cops are drunks and abuse there own families so they dont see a problem and identify with the defendant domestic violence shouldnt be taken so lightly it must be taken seriously and more severe b/c the woman cant even defend herself against a violent man, courts and the law are to protect the weak and they dont the laws shouldnt be as inconsistent as they are , it depends on the lawyer how much he gets paid and mood of the judicial system this should not be in the equation and they should never allow the defendant to appeal and get an opportunity to injure the victim.the courts are like a circus, a flea circus which enable the offender b/c there’s no room in the jails REALLY but plenty of room in the morgue or children’s detention when there mother is gone violence breeds violence ..why don’t they use lie detectors in court it would save a lot of money time and lives..all this bullshit needing evidence wtf so injury is all they see ..harassing someone over the phone not related is taken more serious and people get orders of protection for that…this system only enables the offender b/c they dont want to be held accountable and know how to lie usually always repeat offenders and the attorneys who defend them should be banished from law that’s not justice,,,and usually ends when the victim is badly injured i bet this wouldn’t happen if they had to pay for the damages and the medical and the children’s care while there mother is in the hospital and any other damages that one has to endure b/c of a legal system that is designed to fatten up sc–bag lawyers and keep the employees of the judicial system working after all where would they be if the laws were consistent and upheld ..cant understand why a judge dosen’t see that the defendant is lieing playing the poor victim as always esp the repeat offenders LIE Detectors why waste tax money on this bullshit when it can be done quickly, precisely and accurately????? because of money
It is about money. Not what is best for children.
Walmart has these great manila string tags, they are cheap and you can get them easily anywhere there is a Walmart or make your own – we should write the year and the first names of our the kids that court has literally sold out for profit on one side, the name of the court/judges/attorneys/CPS/etc on the other side and send them or take them to MD for a flash mob installation there before and during the commission.
That’s an idea…I am going to go to a forum with some pictures of my son. I plan on handing them to the commission members.
I have another use for the tags. I have a list of names of everyone who failed my family when we were being stalked. If the person who stalked us is released from prison and harms any of us, this list of people will all have had a hand in it. They enabled him or helped him in some way to be empowered to continue stalking us.
The name of every one of these people should be on a tag and displayed for the community to see if anything happens to us.
You are magnificent in your eloquence. I would be crying and screaming, still.
Excellent post in all you say, and so clearly. God bless Prince.
I live in Maryland. My experience with family court was horrible. My former husband suffered from some type of personality disorder, and he also had MS. I was lucky that our son was old enough to understand (and his father’s behavior had escalated to the point he was threatening both of us.) The court is no place for these types of issues. Judges fail to recognize what is really happening. Lawyers use the system for their benefit. I lost everything (financially) but I am thankful I still have my children, unlike so many others. If I knew then what I knew now, I would have moved away and disappeared for two years. In Maryland you can obtain an uncontested divorce after two years. My ex’s lawyer used the system to put me in financial duress and she got over $50k in fees. I am still paying debt related to my divorce 6 years ago. There are no winners, only the lawyers. My heart goes out to anyone dealing with the court system, family, domestic abuse and custody issues.
As someone who has also been abused by the courts, I can tell by your post that you speak the truth. Only someone who has first hand experience can describe what it is like so well.
The cost to me was about $20,000 in attorney’s fees, but I lost much more in interest since I had a lien against my home for 3 years. I have a 5.3% ARM which I couldn’t refinance due to the fraudulent lien and ongoing lawsuit, had to take many days off work to attend hearings, trials and meet with my attorney over the 4 year period I was stalked and abused in the courts.
The good news is I prevailed and was awarded just under $15,000 in attorney’s fees, and he is now serving a 21 year prison sentence due to his pursuit of my family. I’ve received only $80 of the restitution so far.
I have a web site of my own that describes some of what my family went through. I haven’t posted on my blog recently, although I have much to say. I am torn since I want to help law enforcement officers in training, but if I blog about my situation a lot of it will be negative about law enforcement and the judicial system. I would love to have you read my story but don’t feel it’s appropriate to post my web address on someone else’s web site.
I’m glad you are doing well in spite of what you have been through. Reading Hera’s blog is a lesson in strength for all women.
Thank you! I would be very interested in reading your blog. Not sure how I can find it? Also, your situation sounds very similar. I was unaware my ex’s attorney had a secured interest in OUR jointly owned home and was going to put a lien against it , (long story) but she hid this and was able to use the home’s equity to use the court to put me in financial duress when I had no access to any money (savings had been removed and my bank accounts blocked by her also) and long before I even left our home. She then tried to sell our house to my ex’s sister for less than it appraised at, so she would get paid her fees. I ended up refinancing in order to settle the house sale, but by that time all my share of the equity went to my ex and his attorney for her fees. I can’t begin to describe the frustration in not being able to make the Judge understand, in her view, none of this mattered! I also had an adjustable rate mortgage, because I was going to turn around and sell the house, I never wanted it, just wanted it sold to end the animosity and financial damage. It just kept getting worse instead, the economy etc. I think I may finally be able to sell it and not borrow to do so. (I owe more than it was worth) In any case, I can’t look backward. I tried to file fraud, but I never got a hearing with her as the Defendant so she would have to testify. I know she lied to me. I know she was out to intentionally cause harm to me. (my ex husband was mentally unstable and had MS, he had told her our son and I had abused him, when it was the opposite) I had to read the lies in all the motions, listen to them in court, and I was never allowed to tell what had really happened. I wanted to protect our children from testifying in court.
I didn’t understand what she had done until after I refinanced our home. She then turned around and tried to make me pay her 10k in damages for trying to prove what she had done! (she also has recently tried to subpoena all my personal email accounts, which was denied). She said I had ruined her reputation. I never mentioned her name anywhere. I never lied or did anything to intentionally cause harm to anyone
She told the grievance commission one thing, the court another about a power of attorney for my former husband and our property, and I now have the proof, but I can’t do anything about it, (I had to let this go) I can’t move forward otherwise, for my own well being. I know it was wrong, I know I should have been awarded damages for her actions, but I had to let it go. They say Karma is a B- and I know I did the best I could. I am also VERY thankful for my family (my children) who know the truth. I just wish there were a better way. I don’t think I would ever get married again. (I know I wouldn’t) I keep telling myself there are way more good people than bad, and learn from my experience about what I can and can’t control.
I am glad you were able to obtain some restitution for what you went through, that helps to know there are times justice prevails. I have found it helps me to write about what happened and by mentoring abused women. (Verbal Abuse Journals)
I agree, reading Hera’s blog is a lesson and strength for all women. She is amazing.
Our situations are similar, which tells me that abuse in the courtroom is more common than people realize.
I filed a complaint against the attorney who represented the person who stalked me. The attorney disciplinary board sent him a copy of my complaint, which is fine with me, but they didn’t send me a copy of his response. They then sent me a letter saying no action would be taken. The attorney then proceeded to use the fact that I filed a complaint against him, in court during trial, accusing me of being vindictive! He may not have been officially disciplined but he lost clients due to the way he handled my case.
I completely understand and can relate to the extreme frustration you have experienced throughout your situation. The one member of law enforcement who supported my family used to tell the prosecutor that I was extremely frustrated that it went on for so long. The frustration and anger at what was happening was so severe I now have high blood pressure. The victim’s health needs to be taken into consideration by people whose job is to help them. The stress can have major effects on the victim’s health.
Do a web search of my name and you should find my web site. I have been doing some victim-to-victim advocacy. If you can’t find me maybe Hera wouldn’t mind putting us in touch.
It would just be great to see the “council” of attorneys (which as Hera pointed out will be made of attorneys) have to actually face the music, not just do their little dance so that they can say “everything is fixed now”. What if we contacted the newspaper Hera – sent the card there? Maybe if they received millions of them from around the nation, they would start to see the pattern of abuse in family court. I know I have at least 10 friends that would do it here in Texas. These people need to know it’s not just a local thing, it’s not an isolated incident – this is a major abuse of power going on and it’s horrible what it’s doing to our kids and the parents trying to protect them from abuse.
Val, this MD commission is likely not the venue. That said, I am going to be speaking at a Congressional Briefing tomorrow October 2nd. Me and other advocates are going to ask Congress to hold oversight hearings to prevent Child Abuse and address this growing problem in Family Court across the country. Here are the details:
INVITATION TO A BRIEFING OCTOBER 2, 2013
Protecting Abused Children of Divorce and Separation
Please join us on Wednesday October 2, 2013 from 10:30 to 11:30 am in room 2226 of the Rayburn HOB for a Congressional briefing on Protecting Abused Children of Divorce and Separation.
Find out why the Netherlands gave an American family, Holly Collins and her three children, asylum as refugees escaping grave danger, rather than return them to the United States.
Find out why children who report abuse by a parent and the case is in divorce court are treated differently from children who report abuse in any other context. As citizens, children are entitled to due process to ensure their safety. Unequal treatment of child victims is a civil inequality issue over which Congress has authority and jurisdiction.
Find out how such inequality may lead to child deaths and how Federal funding may inadvertently decrease safety.
Andrew Willis, The Stop Abuse Campaign
Joyana L. Silberg, Ph.D., Vice President, The Leadership Council on Child Abuse and Interpersonal Violence
Hera McLeod, Mother of Prince McLeod Rams
Donnette Lepore, Parent and Advocate
Eileen King, Executive Director, Child Justice, Inc.
Best of luck tomorrow!
Hera, I wish I could go tomorrow! Although I work for the FG, I have to work tomorrow, or I would be there to support this cause, and you. Please keep us informed, and if there is anything I can do to help, just let me know. The first time I had to go to court, I was ordered to attend parenting classes. I was told the Court could not determine which parent was telling the truth, (there had been no testimony) and yet we were both ordered to attend the parenting class. I had a protective order against my then husband, and we ended up being ordered to attend the same class together. He had threatened me, our son and was stalking me. Being ordered to attend a class where he would be, added so much stress. I had to get special approval to wait until the next sessions so I would not be attending with him. I truly believe his mental state was unbalanced. Why does the whole process have to be so difficult. When I did attend the class, they knew who I was, he had filled the class facilitators in and told them I was abusing him and that our son’s behavior was out of control. I have found out that this is normal practice in MD and the first thing a Judge does in child custody cases it to order both parents to parenting classes. The class itself was good, but it didn’t change anything about who was abusing who or help me in any manner. Sorry for rambling again. Take care and good luck tomorrow, I am so thankful you are taking this issue on. You give me strength and hope for the future and the much needed changes in the Court system.
I actually thought the class in MD was completely irrelevant from the perspective of a parent being forced to co-parent with an abusive psychopathic narcissist. It seemed completely geared toward parents who just didn’t get along and was full of people who wanted the other parents to be more involved (signaling that safety was clearly not an issue). Every time I would ask a question, the response would be, “well we don’t deal with issues of domestic violence in this class.” That would always lead me to think, “well then damn…why the hell am I here while my newborn baby is at home wanting to be breastfed?” I was there because it was a one size fits all model even though there were enough men and women in that room who had legitimate concerns that were not being addressed in that forum.
Its mind bottling that ..mothers can kill their children and all evidence justices it..but yet their given a slap on the rist.Mother,foster parent, ..although fathers can do the same thong their thrown under the jail..but why does the court system. Fail to deliver the same out come to the female gender..now there are some circumstances of mentally disturbed situations. .but young mothers and or couples have been murdering their children left and right and ..se to be getting away with such a cruel and heinous crime , and towards children their own children at that..SO I ASK WHAT LAW DO WE HAVE TO PASS THAT STOPS THESE ANIMALS FROM GETTING AWAY WITH KILLING KIDS!!!! because regardles to how angry they make us ,when we say i brought you in this world i can take you out SHOULD ONLY BE USED as a scare tactic not literally!! Ive watched lifetime while on bed rest today and found myself googling away..looking up stories i’d just watched… and im sickened. …SOME THING needs too be done !!!! LETS START THE FIGHT FOR OUR CHILDREN
Reree, you are correct that mothers also hurt kids. That said, if you look historically about cases in the US that involve harm to a child – uniformly no matter what your gender…you get away with less time. There is a case out of New Jersey where a father beat his son to the point where the child barely survived and is now confined to life in a wheelchair with severe brain damage. Was he thrown under the jail? Nope, he got 6 years for destroying this young child’s life. Had he done the same to adult – then he would have been thrown under the jail. This isn’t about gender. I think the courts go too easy on abusers no matter WHAT their gender. The real issue is that many cases which involve child abuse are not treated the same as cases involving assault on an adult. I hate it when people assume that women get off with less time then male abusers. This is just not the case. Both genders get away with hurting children.
People who make false accusations shouldn’t have a voice and hurt it for real victims. Some people want to be in the lime light, are actually manipulators of abuse themselves. There are too many abuse victims out there, including men. Men who have been set up by devious women.
Too often the children are used as pawns between two parents who should be adult enough to
protect the children, instead of mess with their minds. Such was the case with my son who had custody of his two children for 11 years until his untimely death. These children were victims of a manipulative mother who did not have the well being of her children at heart. my heat goes out to all the mothers who have lost their children, and I pray that true victims of abuse are protected by the courts.