When you’re in high conflict custody litigation, you face challenges that can lead to the violation of your children’s rights to care, protection, safety, privacy, and confidentiality, as well as to your rights in parenting and speaking to your children.
The judge—with the help of other court actors such as the guardian ad litem and the “experts” who provide psychological and other evaluations—will be the one to decide how fit you are as a parent, and which parent will be the ultimate custodian.
Further, the judge will take hold of a narrative that guides and informs the legal complaint filed.
The overwhelming concern is always that the protective parent may lose control of the narrative that guides the complaint and may lose control of all facts and evidence that support the case.
These cases must be managed with intense focus on protecting facts in the complaint and protecting the subject child or children.
If you have brought forward evidence that your child experienced sexual, physical, or emotional abuse at the hand of the other parent, you may have already learned that these charges will be fiercely, ferociously contested by the court.
You will find that facts are facts except when they apply to your complaint and your evidence. Evidence must be protected, validated, authenticated and never lost sight of.
Even your own attorney may urge you to “compromise” so that the case can move smoothly through the court.
This compromising may look like dropping the protective order you worked so hard to have filed (in the name of appearing reasonable and operating with good will), allowing the children to have limited contact with the abuser again, and even retracting the accusations of sexual abuse.
What Can Be Done
In order to avoid any deviation from the truth, any attempt to be guided by fake science, conclusions presented by fraudulent evaluators who do not properly document every step of their work, you will find that videotaping and audio taping all interviews with you and with the child is a critical part of making sure that there is a logical and substantiatable process. This will make sure there is no question as to what has occurred.
Evaluations must not be hidden from subjects of the evaluation, and such evaluations must be open to further review or revision as appears to be indicated by the content of the case and the rules that govern the evaluation process. If the evaluation is a credible, scholarly piece of work, it should be available to be viewed and reviewed by multiple experts, even experts in different sectors – psychiatrist interview- psychologist – testing, all reviewers arriving at the same conclusion.
We must never forget that at best, evaluations are hearsay documents, soft science and are not to be substituted for hard fact and cross examination. Therefore, documentation of interpretations and conclusions must be tied to hard evidence based on behavior and statements documented within a video/audio taped interview that is work product relied upon by the evaluator.
If you want to fight for the protection of your children, you must be fully armed and ever alert, ever willing to take on the next battle if it appears that the fundamental truths of the case are being drowned out.
Be willing to continue in the face of continued litigation, for the sake of your children.
Any misstep in the process, any loss of integrity of your arguments or protection of the truth cannot be allowed. Any deviation from the truthful, accurate complaint lodged will be used against the protective parent.
Attempts to appear reasonable and cooperative will be interpreted as a change in the complaint that conveys lies and manipulation from the onset on the part of the protective parent.
You need a clear understanding of the one size fits all theory that is driving family court judges and associated court actors in family court litigation, across the country as of 2020.
We must state categorically that any family court judge, court actor, any evaluator who imports unscientific, false concepts related to the Gardner version of “parental alienation” must be viewed with immediate concern and suspicion. There is no valid clinical syndrome that leverages a purity test that pigeonholes one parent against the other as the (court designated) victim / alienated parent, versus the problem parent – alienator. Categorical denial of the presence of abuses lodged in evidence and complaints, judicial refusal to explore facts, evidence, and testimony is in and of itself grounds to call foul play.
Let me be perfectly clear about the types of sexual, emotional and physical abuse to which we are referring, in which judges and court actors have denied the presentation of evidence, as forcefully imposed false narratives are positioned which have no resemblance to the case at hand. Injuries and traumas are minimized or falsely denied with claims that such events never occurred or did not matter.
The FCVFC is daily confronted with events and occurrences where children are beaten, bitten, raped, groomed for sexual activity, used as props for the sexual perpetrator to enhance masturbation fantasies, used in pornography or trafficked over weekend visitations through orders placed through craigslist under “Family Sex.”
We also have our less dramatic cases in which children are sent to their sadistic abusers, where sexual predatory behavior is secondary to the predator’s pleasure in causing emotional pain, confusion, an overwhelming sense for the child that they are worthless and no one cares for them, most importantly, the parent from whom they have been separated and with whom they long to be. The refrain of the abuser to the targeted child is “I have all the power, you are with me, you will stay with me……. Give up all hope!”
A now six-year-old child was placed in the primary custody and control of her sadistically controlling father. The judge presiding over the case refused to hear from the child’s mother, the reasons that she withheld visitation from the father after the child naively disclosed episodes of sexual abuse by the father. The mother took every possible action to alert and inform the court that the child was in acute danger being with the biological parent who for most of the child’s life took little interest in her and subjected the mother to domestic abuse and stalking.
The child’s value to the father, as articulated by clinical forensic experts from the Foundation, was described as having more to do with directing attention and praise to him as a great guy, single father with hands full And then as a source of personal gratification via the infliction of pain and confusion upon the child. The father would advise the child to act in antisocial ways that would get her in trouble with adults. He could then admonish and scold her, causing her to feel embarrassed, confused and foolish. On one such occasion, the father told the child to grab the breasts of her teacher and her therapist, saying to the child that they would like this, just as he demonstrated on his mother, grabbing her breasts and laughing. When the child acted on the father’s direction with her teacher, she was admonished as the teacher was shocked. A similar interaction with her therapist received a similar reaction. The child was told that this was not proper behavior. She said to her therapist – “ARE YOU SURE?” Because she was told that this behavior would be pleasing.
The five year old was a beautiful, loving, sweet little girl who knew nothing of manipulation and deceit. She was a perfect target for a sadistic manipulator who took constant pleasure in his ability to set her up, knock her down and continue to make her insecure, depressed, and anxious.
The predatory sexual behavior inflicted upon the child was a secondary source of gratification for the father, the first form of gratification was ongoing, endless sadistic abuse in the form of withholding what the child needed for health and comfort. Therapists reported child sexual abuse to the authorities. The child’s abuse accusations were substantiated independently, yet the court appointed evaluator manipulated testing to preclude the full and proper diagnosis of the father’s pathology and provided a false picture which would later doom the protective parent in her ability to ever hold the father accountable or to secure a true picture of his pathology and the following, extensive, venal, toxic impact on the child.
In another horrendous situation brought to our attention and intervention
a family of four children disclosed years of violent physical and sexual abuse, accompanied by acts interpreted to be animal sacrifice and torture used to intimidate the children into silence and compliance. When the children felt they could no longer sustain their silence they informed their mother of unspeakable crimes committed upon their bodies and acts in which they were compelled to engage.
Attempts to speak with police, to gain protection and assistance, were fruitless as the mother sought assistance from local authorities. She was told, the children had “over active imaginations,” according to one police officer in Virginia who spent a few minutes listening to two children who described serial, ritual religious sexual violence and abuse at the hands of their father and their grandfather, over a period of years. No investigation was undertaken by all responsible authorities and agencies such as Child Protective Services. CPS entirely avoided taking any mandated responsibility as per the policies that guide their practice and participated in making a mockery of laws and orders meant to protect children.
One young woman client from Arizona repeatedly attempted to tell therapists, court appointed advisors, the attorney she was able to independently engage to represent her (defenders of children) that she lived in fear of her brother, two years her senior. Her fear was that her brother would kill her and make the shooting episode that ended her life look like an accident. She had ample reason to fear him based on a life- long, intense antagonism he displayed towards her.
An episode which led to her mother’s flight from the family home and filing for divorce was an episode in which her brother, while ‘“cleaning” his gun, pointed the shot gun directly to her head, looking her squarely in the eye as he peered through the sites of the rifle. She stated that he laughed when he saw her fear. When she spoke to her father of the event, he dismissed it, telling her that she was overreacting.
The child’s brother collected guns, knives and ancient instruments of warfare from his earliest years. His room contents reflected his obsession with Nazi doctrine, racism in the form of White Nationalism and brutal acts of destruction. He was described as an aggressive, confrontational racist. As a child, left alone with a child cousin, he had to be restrained from having placed a plastic bag over the child’s head in a clear attempt to have her faint from lack of oxygen. This young man’s penchant for shooting little animals, breaking the heads off of crayfish babies and other forms of life that could be mutilated was of great concern as per the acts, but also the glee on his face described by family members who viewed his action. His drug and alcohol abuse as a young teen evolved and fueled his antisocial behavior, which resulted in his being barred from any ability to be present on any school property. He was expelled from high school in his junior year and completed school with a GED.
The Arizona Courts ignored the evidence placed before them by the mother. His sister’s attorney was dismissed without any stated reason by the court that intensely pressed for the dismantling of charges and complaints brought by the mother in the matters of divorce, property settlement and custody. The father, party to the divorce proceedings, had his own preoccupation with violence and perpetration of sadistic acts toward his wife and daughter.
Father and son were described by the court as avid sportsmen, outdoorsmen. Overt acts of violence toward mother and daughter were viewed as frivolous. (Violent behaviors rated on scales for psychopathy indicated scores achieved indicated serious psychopathic pathology.)
The Arizona court presented a united front, advocating for father and son, insisting that father and son were “misunderstood.” Behavior seen as threatening, intimidating, was overreacted to, insisting for the daughter to have a relationship with her father, and brother.
The court appointed evaluator who was charged with gathering information to present to the judge dismissed all of the subject child’s thoughts and feelings. The court appointed special advocate, herself a family court judge stated through her interactions with the subject child “I assume that you and your brother are so involved in this case that you know everything that is going on . . . and that you are enmeshed with your mother. . . . You are stuck in the middle of your parent’s divorce.”
The child stated – my mother left our family home with me because she understood that my life is in danger – that I am afraid that my brother is going to kill me.
Oh yes says the Court Appointed Evaluator – but there are two very different versions of that story. “Was the gun loaded? I was never clear as to whether or not the gun was loaded.”
As the child is sobbing, the court appointed evaluator nattered inanities, handing her tissues and continuing to chatter about her own relationship with her father who she hated as a young girl and young woman.
The interview ended with an understanding that the subject child was not shot and killed on that occasion and she needed to just – push down these feelings – put them aside and just move on. (The interview was transcribed and viewed as “good advice by the Arizona court.”)
The order of the court was that the child must engage in “reunification therapy” with her father and that if she resisted, she would be sent to “boarding school”— Reunification Therapy Camp— until such relationship with her father was resolved.
This was not the outcome of the case.
It is important to note that staff of the FCVFC referred this case to the FBI. The FBI did take on investigation of the case.
In addition to being a potential fratricide, staff of the FCVFC were very concerned about this young man’s potential as a school shooter. In the course of intense scrutiny of the case, the young man in question accidentally shot himself and came close to succumbing to his self inflicted wound. Emergency medical intervention prevented him from bleeding to death on the spot, and such activity altered the trajectory of the case.
Advice to Protective Parents Facing Critical Decisions
One of the first pieces of information protective parents need to arm themselves with is the fact that more often than not, all the players in family court work together as a “team,” not your team, but the independent panel. They all know each other and pick their collaborators to be assigned by the judge presiding over your case. They’ve been working out back room deals for years. With very few exceptions, they are far more interested in moving cases through court than they are in protecting any child. Courts which embrace the concept of parental alienation as put forth by Richard Gardner MD also imbibe the mantra that sexual abuse – often really in the form of incest – does not exist and such flamboyant suggestions are directed at undermining joint custody and cooperative parenting.
The flow of money through high conflict custody is mapped out between judges and court actors and to the victor goes the spoils. Your financial statements of property and income becomes the salary paid to all court court actors whose self interest and interpersonal backroom dealings are legion, rampant and too often move along without comment or confrontation.
The rule in this age is that the Best Interests of children are of absolutely no interest to courts across the country. The evidence of fraud, misrepresentation, betrayal of fiduciary responsibility, pure laziness in unwillingness to pursue many remedies open to clients to protect their children are simply not engaged. Time, money, and “I have to practice before this court well after your case is over” are the thoughts that occupy the pedestrian practitioner.
Desperation for representation in the court arena is understandable in the process of panic in the fog of litigation. Acting on such desperation is not constructive, as the lifelong consequences are devastating to the child, the protective parent and the future of all parties.
The pressure to settle, compromise, withdraw critical aspects of complaints, accept what appears to be a reasonable compromise, in return for something critical to you and your child is a deflection point that often arises in contentious custody litigation where charges of terrible abuse have been lodged.
The implicit problem within this solution is that agreeing to a critical change in the complaint, taking back charges that have been central to litigation arguments and protections in place, or fought for through the pendency of the case, signals an opening for the court to view the asserted position of the protective parent as a manipulative tactic and fundamentally inauthentic.
This change in the language of the complaint can open the path for charges of lying and coaching / alienating, just seeking full control of the child in order to destroy the child’s relationships, charges that the protective parent faced at the onset of litigation.
Every contentious litigation faces many points at which critical strategic decisions must be made that impact case outcomes. At these points relationships are tested as to expertise, whose judgment and direction to follow, balanced with the pressure to gain some relief and to seize an opportunity that looks like an achievement of certain goals related to child protection.
We can say with some certainty that any time a fundamental principle of a case is compromised in return for withdrawing a central complaint in the case, the goodwill gesture attempted in the spirit of seeking some conclusion to hostilities will turn against the seeker of peace in ways in which they will not recover.
It is at these points that the protective parent, decision maker in the direction of strategy to be pursued must wrestle with their own personal issues of trauma, trust, and exhaustion. At these junctures decisions to compromise or confront the need for extended litigation to protect critical issues, are central to the protection of the child and ultimately determine the outcome of the case.
You want an attorney that will take your children’s protection so seriously that he or she will refuse to follow the “this-is-the-way-we-always-do- things-here” protocol of dropping the protective order or minimizing the abuse. You need a team that combines a variety of levels of legal, clinical, and forensic skills to identify legal pitfalls and traps, who are not fearful of confronting and litigating those issues in the multifaceted manner in which they must be confronted.
The FCVFC has now established the Foundation for Moral Advocacy and Litigation. We are taking on court corruption as identified in each case. We are here to litigate on behalf of our clients, to protect children facing transfer and isolation in the hands of their abuser.
We will be writing soon about the new legal division of the FCVFC, and we will be writing about our cases as they develop, to advance the mission of the FCVFC and the children and protective parents for whom we advocate.
This is where we are right now. This is how we want to grow and expand our services.