The Incredibly High Threshold
In this past Sunday’s edition of The Washington Post, there was an excellent article that highlighted a case where the safety of a child seemed to merely be an after thought (if it was a thought at all). I commend the Washington Post for continuing to expose the ugly realities of Family Court, particularly those in my former home State of Maryland (the same State that endorsed the murder of my son). This particular piece shined a light on a custody war that is currently ongoing where a mother is trying to protect her four year old son from his father. While the courts admit that the child’s father (Andrew Monjica) has been convicted of sexually abusing a female minor (and is currently listed on the sex offender registry), he has been granted unsupervised, overnight visits with his son. The court defends its decision to expose this child to a known sexual predator because it believes all parents have “a constitutional right to raise their children.”
According to the Washington Post, the mother of the child, Gloria Faulkner, says, “the court has taken away my power to protect my son.” While I normally try to stay away from gender wars in Family Court (as I feel that the Child’s Rights should always come first), I find it curious that in this case the court focuses on a constitutional right that appears only relevant when it comes to the father. If a parent has a constitutional right to raise his/her child, doesn’t that also include having the right to protect that child from harm? Why is it that the court is only focusing on the right of this father? What about the child’s right to be kept safe from a sexual abuser? What about the mother’s right to protect her child?
Gloria Faulkner continues to fight to try and protect her son from his abusive father. (Yes, I believe someone who is a convicted sex offender of this nature should always be classified as a child abuser.) Despite clear and convincing evidence that this man is capable of sexually abusing a child (he did actually get convicted beyond a reasonable doubt), the court does not think the mother’s argument for supervised visitation meets “the threshold”. Maryland law requires that in situations where there has been a finding of abuse or neglect, the court should determine whether future abuse or neglect is likely and, unless there is no likelihood, deny access or require supervision. There have been several studies that show 90% of sex offenders will re-offend, and they are four times more likely to commit the crime again. So given this known statistic, a rational person would realize that future abuse is likely and make a motion to protect the child – despite the “rights” of the parent. If this case doesn’t meet that threshold, I question if any case really would meet this incredibly high threshold.
Two weeks before my son’s murder, I vividly remember sitting down with my attorneys and pleading with them to file an emergency order to keep visits supervised. As I begged my attorneys to help me protect my son, Prince sat sleeping peacefully in his stroller. My attorneys refused and told me that my concerns did not meet the threshold of the court for a change in the existing order. Luc had been “cleared” by a psychologist and deemed “safe” to be around Prince without supervision. They warned that if I didn’t stop trying to fight my son’s father, I would end up losing custody. They were right about several things. They were correct that my complaints didn’t meet threshold (because the threshold was simply a statement on paper which couldn’t be met no matter what the circumstances). They were also correct that I would eventually lose my son – though not the way they thought I would.
As I cried and screamed at them that day. Before leaving in a pool of tears, I asked them something that I am sure haunts them to this day. I asked them, “what is it going to take? What is the threshold? Am I going to have to bring my son to you in a body bag after Luc has killed him for the courts to believe that access should be restricted?” One of my attorneys smirked and commented that I was over-reacting. The next time I spoke to them I called from the hospital. At that time, I wasn’t aware that my son wouldn’t survive what he had been through. I asked the lawyer what I should do. His response was, “we will file that emergency motion on Monday.” Later that same evening, I called my attorney back and said, “Don’t bother filing that motion – it’s too late…he’s dead.” That Monday my attorney had planned to file the motion was the day of my son’s autopsy. It was too late for Prince, but the threshold had been met.
I don’t know Gloria Faulkner personally, but I feel connected to her because of the pain I know she is enduring at this moment. She is not being permitted to be her son’s mother, despite the fact that she has been granted sole legal and primary physical custody of him. I, too, never felt as though I was allowed to be my son’s mother. My constitutional right to protect my child and my son’s constitutional right to live didn’t matter when we walked into Family Court. All that mattered was that my son had access to both of his biological parents – even if that meant playing Russian Roulette with his life.
When it comes to cases where there are founded allegations of previous child abuse, or other behavior that would pose a clear danger to a child, the offending parent’s “constitutional right” to raise their child should not be the court’s primary concern – it should, in fact, be void. The primary concern needs to be the safety of the child. Until the courts realize that current laws, which are supposed to protect children from an abusive parent, are meant to be enforced vice liberally interpreted – children will continue to be abused, children will continue to be murdered, and the basic civil rights of these children will continue to be trampled on by a system that has been charged with their protection.
It’s hard to take, but the more I read, the more I know that at least PART of the problem in Family Court is the result of the work of a FEW father’s rights groups. Does that mean I don’t think there are good dads that are in the same position? Absolutely not – I know some dads fighting the same fight as protective moms. The minute you tell the courts that the other parent could be a threat to the child, you become to them, an alarmist, an uncooperative litigant, vindictive, hysterical, manipulative (a protective parent)…and in all but a tiny fraction of the cases, they are dead wrong. http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL31025.pdf (Fatherhood Initiatives: Connecting Fathers to
Their Children) http://familycourtinamerica.org/2013/06/17/association-of-family-and-conciliation-courts-childrens-rights-council/ (here’s where the money is funneled to the grants from and where it goes to) and because the thinking is that we, single moms are the ruin of our society. There are even some men who would like to make it VERY hard to even get a divorce (impossible?) to keep “families” together. It’s another fail because BOTH of these movements fail to take into account, those humans that are mentally incapable of caring, have no empathy or concern for others and are basically BROKEN – men and women. http://sammargulies.com/2013/04/01/new-proposed-divorce-law-in-north-carolina-shows-ignorance-about-divorce/ “fewer divorces if couples are required to jump through a few more hoops before a judge is permitted to dissolve the marriage” and https://www.google.com/search?q=reducing+divorce&rlz=1C1CHMR_enUS554US555&oq=reducing+divorce&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l4.3619j0&sourceid=chrome&espvd=210&es_sm=93&ie=UTF-8 (one of my creepiest attorneys ran for judge and “suggested” that there be a MANDATORY time buffer – what a great thing for victims of domestic abuse that would be. NOT) Chances are that your lovely therapist were collecting some of that grant money from Dept. of HHS under one guise or another, his attorney too, the judge – because the programs are in place to supposedly “lessen” the conflict in the courtroom. All the grants really do, is encourage corruption because there are some players who want to the collect that money and keep you in court as long as possible and all the while, blame it on you , the protective parent being “unreasonable” and hard to deal with. In a lawsuit filed against “Court-Based Racketeering” in Illinois, Georgia, PA and Utah, they state – there is “evidence indicates that what is going on in the venue provided by the nation’s State courts in which private assets and federal funds can be unlawfully accessed are not “legitimate judicial proceedings” but crime, specifically, apparent violations of Federal funding laws and other Federal civil and criminal laws including alleged racketeering activity among public officials and State court actors.” This is the reason protective parents are treated like trash – their material and even forensic evidence ignored and hearsay from the defendant accordingly accepted like CONCRETE proof – just to drag out the proceedings FOR PROFIT. There are so many federally funded ways for the courts to line their coffers – fees on child support collected – more that our kids pay. It goes on and on.
Val, I would agree that there are parent groups on both sides that are extremely problematic. I think the sad part is that while some of these groups might have been created with good intensions, they are infiltrated by abusers and manipulators that attempt to appear as victims.
My Dear Sweet Cappy… I read about two thirds of your blog entry tonight before I gave up. My heart breaking for the little child in danger, the mother of the child, for Prince and for you. THRESHOLD … That is the portion of the bottom of a door frame which right now I could rip out with my bare hands and beat senseless … no that isn’t right.. these idiots are already senseless.. HOW dare a lawyer or any one tell you that you were over reacting… How dare these ignorant people allow a convicted sexual abuser of a child contact with a child? I am just sickened… Social services would not listen when a grandmother pleaded that her grand children be removed from the custody of their parents. The baby girl aged 7 months old died in a house known to be that of a drug user and dealer… a house that was UNDER SURVEILLANCE at the time of her death. And the social workers told the grandmother the same thing.. “over reacting” that she was overly protective…. No one seems to care about the lives of these innocent little children. I don’t know how you are able to write the way you do. I hope your ability to bring out the truth will one day make the difference is the lives of many children.
Thanks Mary Cannon for your support. It is sickening to hear all the terrible things that our society has allowed to happen to children. We don’t fight hard enough to protect them. I feel as if all abused children are my own sometimes. It hurts all over again when I see another story about a parent killing a child. It hurts like that child was my own because I know how it feels to love a child more than life itself and have that child taken from you by someone who was supposed to love them as much as you did.
Our Family Courts are so corrupted, words cannot describe. I truly believe there is strength in numbers, share a link to your story to spread the word that parental rights (which is the premise on which determinations are made) should NOT supercede the safety of our children.